DNA topoisomerase II enzymes regulate essential cellular processes by altering the topology of chromosomal DNA. These enzymes function by creating transient double-stranded breaks in the DNA molecule that allow the DNA strands to pass through each other and unwind or unknot tangled DNA. Because of the integral role of topoisomerases in regulating DNA metabolism, these enzymes are vital for cell survival. Several clinically active antitumor agents target these enzymes. Mammalian cells contain two topoisomerase II isozymes that are encoded by different genes: topoisomerase IIα and IIβ. Although, both isozymes are homologous and exhibit similar catalytic activity, they are differentially regulated and are involved in distinct biological functions. The topoisomerase IIα and topoisomerase IIβ enzymes are regulated by post-translational modifications, including sumoylation, ubiquitination and phosphorylation. These posttranslational modifications influence the biologic and catalytic activity of the enzyme and affect sensitivity of cells to topoisomerase II-targeted drugs. In this review, we describe how the catalytic and biologic activity of the topoisomerase II enzyme is regulated and discuss the mechanisms by which chemotherapeutic agents that target these enzymes function. Given the potential importance of site-specific modifications, in particular phosphorylation, in regulating sensitivity to topoisomerase II-targeted drugs, we discuss the potential role of altered topoisomerase II phosphorylation in development of drug resistance, which is often a limiting factor in the treatment of cancer.
Keywords: DNA topoisomerases, topoisomerase inhibitors, cancer chemotherapy, drug resistance, phosphorylation.
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