Etoposide promotes DNA loop trapping and barrier formation by topoisomerase II

Nat Chem Biol. 2023 May;19(5):641-650. doi: 10.1038/s41589-022-01235-9. Epub 2023 Jan 30.


Etoposide is a broadly employed chemotherapeutic and eukaryotic topoisomerase II poison that stabilizes cleaved DNA intermediates to promote DNA breakage and cytotoxicity. How etoposide perturbs topoisomerase dynamics is not known. Here we investigated the action of etoposide on yeast topoisomerase II, human topoisomerase IIα and human topoisomerase IIβ using several sensitive single-molecule detection methods. Unexpectedly, we found that etoposide induces topoisomerase to trap DNA loops, compacting DNA and restructuring DNA topology. Loop trapping occurs after ATP hydrolysis but before strand ejection from the enzyme. Although etoposide decreases the innate stability of topoisomerase dimers, it increases the ability of the enzyme to act as a stable roadblock. Interestingly, the three topoisomerases show similar etoposide-mediated resistance to dimer separation and sliding along DNA but different abilities to compact DNA and chirally relax DNA supercoils. These data provide unique mechanistic insights into the functional consequences of etoposide on topoisomerase II dynamics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • DNA
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type II* / genetics
  • Etoposide / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Topoisomerase II Inhibitors* / pharmacology


  • Etoposide
  • Topoisomerase II Inhibitors
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type II
  • DNA