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Science. 2011 Mar 11;331(6022):1328-32. doi: 10.1126/science.1201538.

Positive supercoiling of mitotic DNA drives decatenation by topoisomerase II in eukaryotes.

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  • 1Medical Research Council (MRC) Clinical Sciences Centre, Imperial College London, Hammersmith Hospital, London, UK.


DNA topoisomerase II completely removes DNA intertwining, or catenation, between sister chromatids before they are segregated during cell division. How this occurs throughout the genome is poorly understood. We demonstrate that in yeast, centromeric plasmids undergo a dramatic change in their topology as the cells pass through mitosis. This change is characterized by positive supercoiling of the DNA and requires mitotic spindles and the condensin factor Smc2. When mitotic positive supercoiling occurs on decatenated DNA, it is rapidly relaxed by topoisomerase II. However, when positive supercoiling takes place in catenated plasmid, topoisomerase II activity is directed toward decatenation of the molecules before relaxation. Thus, a topological change on DNA drives topoisomerase II to decatenate molecules during mitosis, potentially driving the full decatenation of the genome.

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