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Cancer Metastasis Rev. 1985;4(4):263-76.

DNA topoisomerase II as a target of antineoplastic drug therapy.


A major goal of cancer therapy research is identification of critical biochemical targets that mediate the ability of effective cancer chemotherapy to kill tumor cells while allowing the maintenance of normal cell function. A candidate for such a target is DNA topoisomerase II, a ubiquitous enzyme that alters three-dimensional conformation of supercoiled DNA. DNA intercalating agents and epipodophyllotoxins stabilize a DNA and topoisomerase II complex. The process of stabilization probably represents the poisoning of an intermediate state in the normal functioning of the enzyme. This stabilized intermediate state can be measured in whole cells using the filter elution method of Kohn to quantify protein-associated DNA cleavage produced when the cells are exposed to intercalators or epipodophyllotoxins. By altering cell populations in quantifiable ways, four factors appear to influence the magnitude of drug-induced, topoisomerase II-mediated DNA cleavage and cytotoxicity: the proliferative state of the cell (proliferating cells are more sensitive than quiescent ones); the cell cycle state (cells pharmacologically recruited into G1-S are more sensitive than asynchronously growing cells); the chromatin conformation (DNA methylation, polyamine depletion, and other chromosomal changes can alter the magnitude of topoisomerase II-mediated effects); the cellular phenotype (in an as yet uncharacterized manner, malignant cells apparently are more sensitive to topoisomerase II-mediated events than normal cells). These data suggest that the biochemical basis of the therapeutic index of drugs such as the intercalating agents or epipodophyllotoxins may be the intrinsic hypersensitivity of the topoisomerase II in malignant cells to poisoning by these drugs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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