Comparison of DNA decatenation by Escherichia coli topoisomerase IV and topoisomerase III: implications for non-equilibrium topology simplification

Nucleic Acids Res. 2013 Apr;41(8):4640-9. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkt136. Epub 2013 Mar 4.


Type II topoisomerases are essential enzymes that regulate DNA topology through a strand-passage mechanism. Some type II topoisomerases relax supercoils, unknot and decatenate DNA to below thermodynamic equilibrium. Several models of this non-equilibrium topology simplification phenomenon have been proposed. The kinetic proofreading (KPR) model postulates that strand passage requires a DNA-bound topoisomerase to collide twice in rapid succession with a second DNA segment, implying a quadratic relationship between DNA collision frequency and relaxation rate. To test this model, we used a single-molecule assay to measure the unlinking rate as a function of DNA collision frequency for Escherichia coli topoisomerase IV (topo IV) that displays efficient non-equilibrium topology simplification activity, and for E. coli topoisomerase III (topo III), a type IA topoisomerase that unlinks and unknots DNA to equilibrium levels. Contrary to the predictions of the KPR model, topo IV and topo III unlinking rates were linearly related to the DNA collision frequency. Furthermore, topo III exhibited decatenation activity comparable with that of topo IV, supporting proposed roles for topo III in DNA segregation. This study enables us to rule out the KPR model for non-equilibrium topology simplification. More generally, we establish an experimental approach to systematically control DNA collision frequency.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA Topoisomerase IV / chemistry
  • DNA Topoisomerase IV / metabolism*
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type I / chemistry
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type I / genetics
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type I / metabolism*
  • DNA, Catenated / chemistry
  • DNA, Catenated / metabolism*
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / genetics
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / metabolism*


  • DNA, Catenated
  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • DNA Topoisomerase IV
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type I