In order to examine the inhibitory activities of quinolones against topoisomerase IV, both subunits of this enzyme, ParC and ParE, were purified from Escherichia coli. The specific activity of topoisomerase IV decatenation was found to be more than five times greater than that of topoisomerase IV relaxation. Thus, the decatenation activity of topoisomerase IV seems the most relevant activity for use in studies of drug inhibition of this enzyme. Although topoisomerase IV was less sensitive to quinolones than DNA gyrase, the 50% inhibitory concentrations for decatenation were significantly lower than those for type I topoisomerases. Moreover, there was a positive correlation between the inhibitory activity against topoisomerase IV decatenation and that for DNA gyrase supercoiling. These results imply that topoisomerase IV could be a target for the quinolones in intact bacteria and that quinolones could inhibit not only supercoiling of DNA gyrase but also decatenation of topoisomerase IV when high concentrations of drug exist in bacterial cells.