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Bull Cancer. 1993 Nov;80(11):923-54.

[Poisons of DNA topoisomerases I and II].

[Article in French]

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Laboratoire de pharmacologie et de toxicologie fondamentales, CNRS, Toulouse, France.


Over the past decade, DNA topoisomerase I and II appeared to be the targets of some antitumor agents: CPT-11 and Topotecan derived from Camptothecin which interact with topoisomerase I; Actinomycin D, Adriamycin and Daunorubicin, Elliptinium Acetate, Mitoxantrone, Etoposide and Teniposide, Amsacrine which interact with topoisomerase II. The multiple functions of these enzymes are important as they play a role during replication, transcription, recombination, repair and chromatine organisation. Particularly, they relax torsional constraints which appear when intertwined DNA strands are separated while replication fork or RNA polymerases are moving. To some extent, topoisomerase I and II are structurally and functionally different. Moreover, topoisomerase I is not indispensable for a living cell whereas topoisomerase II is. Drug-topoisomerase interaction which probably leads to antitumoral effect of the compounds studied in this review is not a trivial inhibition of the enzyme but rather a poisoning due to stabilization of cleavable complexes between the enzyme and DNA. These stabilized complexes are likely to induce apoptosis-like programmed cell death, which is characterised by DNA fragmentation. However, it appears that it is the collision of the replication fork with the drug-stabilized cleavable complex that is responsible for the cytotoxicity of the drug: poisoning of topoisomerases by antitumor agents leads to a new concept of "dynamic toxicity". Although they interact with a common target, topoisomerase II poisons have differential effects on macromolecules syntheses, cell cycle and chromosome fragmentation; a few compounds may produce free radicals. Because of these differential effects in addition to quantitative and qualitative variations of stabilized cleavable complexes, in particular DNA sequences on which topoisomerase II is stabilized, these antitumor agents do not resemble each other. Cellular resistance to topoisomerases poisons results of two principal types of alteration: target and/or drug transport modification. Decreased ability to form the cleavable complex in resistant cells may be the consequence of both decreased amount of topoisomerase or altered enzyme. On the other hand, overexpression of membrane P-glycoprotein, which pumps drugs out of the cell by an energy dependent process provokes a decreased accumulation of these drugs. Cross resistances to other drugs are mainly under control of these two different mechanisms of resistance. A complete knowledge of their individual effects and mechanisms of resistance would allow a better clinical use of topoisomerases poisons, especially when administered in combination chemotherapy.

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