Topoisomerase II (Top2) is the target of a wide range of active anti-cancer agents. Drugs targeting Top2 are widely used and active agents, but a detailed understanding of how they act against the enzyme has proven elusive. Clinically active Top2 targeting agents lead to enzyme mediated DNA damage, and are referred to as Top2 poisons. Detailed information about the action of Top2 poisons has the potential for leading to safer and more active anti-cancer drugs. An important model system for understanding the biological and biochemical properties of DNA topoisomerases is the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. The genetic tools available in this organism also make it a powerful system for studying mechanisms of action of anti-cancer drugs targeting topoisomerases. Yeast Top2 has also been the enzyme of choice for structural studies of eukaryotic Top2. The overall goal of this project is to apply all of the tools available with the yeast system to obtain a detailed understanding of how Top2 poisons interact with the enzyme, and how Top2 drug interactions lead to Top2 mediated DNA damage. We propose a combination of genetic, biochemical and structural approaches to understand the action of Top2 poisons on their target enzymes. Genetic studies will allow the isolation and characterization of novel drug hypersensitive mutants of Top2. These studies will increase our understanding of how Top2 poisons bind to the enzyme and generate enzyme-mediated DNA damage. Assays for assessing drug action, including measurements of drug affinity and enzyme mediated DNA cleavage will be applied to test how drug hypersensitivity occurs in the mutant proteins. We also plan to study a novel mutant of human Top2 that mimics the action of Top2 poisons in the absence of drug. Studies with this mutant will provide a biochemical understanding of Top2 mediated DNA damage in the context of the overall reaction cycle. Finally, the drug hypersensitive mutants will provide necessary reagents for structural studies that will attempt to solve the structure of drug:protein:DNA ternary complexes. The proposed experiments will be useful in the design of new agent targeting Top2, and may suggest more effective use of Top2 targeting drugs that are in clinical use.

Public Health Relevance

Topoisomerase II (Top2) is the target of active anti-cancer agents that in commonly use. While these drugs have been in use for many years, a detailed understanding of how they act against the Top2 has proven elusive. The proposed studies will provide a detailed picture of how Top2 targeting drugs interact with the enzyme, and may lead to tools needed for designing safer and more effective drugs that target this enzyme.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Basic Mechanisms of Cancer Therapeutics Study Section (BMCT)
Program Officer
Arya, Suresh
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Illinois at Chicago
Schools of Pharmacy
United States
Zip Code
Tombline, Gregory; Millen, Jonathan I; Polevoda, Bogdan et al. (2017) Effects of an unusual poison identify a lifespan role for Topoisomerase 2 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Aging (Albany NY) 9:68-97
Heo, Jinho; Li, Jing; Summerlin, Matthew et al. (2015) TDP1 promotes assembly of non-homologous end joining protein complexes on DNA. DNA Repair (Amst) 30:28-37
Katyal, Sachin; Lee, Youngsoo; Nitiss, Karin C et al. (2014) Aberrant topoisomerase-1 DNA lesions are pathogenic in neurodegenerative genome instability syndromes. Nat Neurosci 17:813-21
Nitiss, Karin C; Nitiss, John L (2014) Twisting and ironing: doxorubicin cardiotoxicity by mitochondrial DNA damage. Clin Cancer Res 20:4737-9
Gao, Rui; Schellenberg, Matthew J; Huang, Shar-Yin N et al. (2014) Proteolytic degradation of topoisomerase II (Top2) enables the processing of Top2┬ĚDNA and Top2┬ĚRNA covalent complexes by tyrosyl-DNA-phosphodiesterase 2 (TDP2). J Biol Chem 289:17960-9
Nitiss, John L; Nitiss, Karin C (2013) Tdp2: a means to fixing the ends. PLoS Genet 9:e1003370
Hasinoff, Brian B; Wu, Xing; Nitiss, John L et al. (2012) The anticancer multi-kinase inhibitor dovitinib also targets topoisomerase I and topoisomerase II. Biochem Pharmacol 84:1617-26
Nitiss, John L; Soans, Eroica; Rogojina, Anna et al. (2012) Topoisomerase assays. Curr Protoc Pharmacol Chapter 3:Unit 3.3.
Bahmed, Karim; Nitiss, Karin C; Nitiss, John L (2010) Yeast Tdp1 regulates the fidelity of nonhomologous end joining. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 107:4057-62
Nitiss, John L (2009) Targeting DNA topoisomerase II in cancer chemotherapy. Nat Rev Cancer 9:338-50

Showing the most recent 10 out of 56 publications