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J Biol Chem. 2002 Feb 8;277(6):3813-22. Epub 2001 Dec 3.

Active site mutations in DNA topoisomerase I distinguish the cytotoxic activities of camptothecin and the indolocarbazole, rebeccamycin.

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Department of Molecular Pharmacology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee 38105, USA.


DNA topoisomerase I (Top1p) catalyzes topological changes in DNA and is the cellular target of the antitumor agent camptothecin (CPT). Non-CPT drugs that target Top1p, such as indolocarbazoles, are under clinical development. However, whether the cytotoxicity of indolocarbazoles derives from Top1p poisoning remains unclear. To further investigate indolocarbazole mechanism, rebeccamycin R-3 activity was examined in vitro and in yeast. Using a series of Top1p mutants, where substitution of residues around the active site tyrosine has well-defined effects on enzyme catalysis, we show that catalytically active, CPT-resistant enzymes remain sensitive to R-3. This indolocarbazole did not inhibit yeast Top1p activity, yet was effective in stabilizing Top1p-DNA complexes. Similar results were obtained with human Top1p, when Ser or His were substituted for Asn-722. The mutations altered enzyme function and sensitivity to CPT, yet R-3 poisoning of Top1p was unaffected. Moreover, top1delta, rad52delta yeast cells expressing human Top1p, but not catalytically inactive Top1Y723Fp, were sensitive to R-3. These data support hTop1p as the cellular target of R-3 and indicate that distinct drug-enzyme interactions at the active site are required for efficient poisoning by R-3 or CPT. Furthermore, resistance to one poison may potentiate cell sensitivity to structurally distinct compounds that also target Top1p.

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