Mechanism of action of eukaryotic topoisomerase II and drugs targeted to the enzyme

Biochim Biophys Acta. 1998 Oct 1;1400(1-3):139-54. doi: 10.1016/s0167-4781(98)00132-8.


Topoisomerase II is a ubiquitous enzyme that is essential for the survival of all eukaryotic organisms and plays critical roles in virtually every aspect of DNA metabolism. The enzyme unknots and untangles DNA by passing an intact helix through a transient double-stranded break that it generates in a separate helix. Beyond its physiological functions, topoisomerase II is the target for some of the most active and widely prescribed anticancer drugs currently utilized for the treatment of human cancers. These drugs act in an insidious fashion and kill cells by increasing levels of covalent topoisomerase II-cleaved DNA complexes that are normally fleeting intermediates in the catalytic cycle of the enzyme. Over the past several years, we have made considerable strides in our understanding of the catalytic mechanism of topoisomerase II and the mechanism of action of drugs targeted to this enzyme. These advances have provided novel insights into the physiological functions of topoisomerase II and have led to the development of more efficacious chemotherapeutic regimens and novel anticancer drugs. Considering the importance of topoisomerase II to the eukaryotic cell and to cancer chemotherapy, it is essential to understand its enzymatic function and pharmacological properties. Therefore, this review will discuss the mechanism of action of eukaryotic topoisomerase II and topoisomerase II-targeted drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry*
  • Binding Sites / genetics
  • Catalysis
  • DNA / metabolism
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type II / metabolism*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / chemistry
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Eukaryotic Cells
  • Humans
  • Molecular Structure
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Topoisomerase II Inhibitors


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Topoisomerase II Inhibitors
  • DNA
  • DNA Topoisomerases, Type II