Regulation of topoisomerase II stability and activity by ubiquitination and SUMOylation: clinical implications for cancer chemotherapy

Ying Ma, Brian J. North, Jianfeng Shu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


DNA topoisomerases II (TOP2) are peculiar enzymes (TOP2α and TOP2β) that modulate the conformation of DNA by momentarily breaking double-stranded DNA to allow another strand to pass through, and then rejoins the DNA phosphodiester backbone. TOP2α and TOP2β play vital roles in nearly all events involving DNA metabolism, including DNA transcription, replication, repair, and chromatin remodeling. Beyond these vital functions, TOP2 enzymes are therapeutic targets for various anticancer drugs, termed TOP2 poisons, such as teniposide, etoposide, and doxorubicin. These drugs exert their antitumor activity by inhibiting the activity of TOP2–DNA cleavage complexes (TOP2ccs) containing DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs), subsequently leading to the degradation of TOP2 by the 26S proteasome, thereby exposing the DSBs and eliciting a DNA damage response. Failure of the DSBs to be appropriately repaired leads to genomic instability. Due to this mechanism, patients treated with TOP2-based drugs have a high incidence of secondary malignancies and cardiotoxicity. While the cytotoxicity associated with TOP2 poisons appears to be TOP2α-dependent, the DNA sequence rearrangements and formation of DSBs appear to be mediated primarily through TOP2β inhibition, likely due to the differential degradation patterns of TOP2α and TOP2β. Research over the past few decades has shown that under various conditions, the ubiquitin–proteasome system (UPS) and the SUMOylation pathway are primarily responsible for regulating the stability and activity of TOP2 and are therefore critical regulators of the therapeutic effect of TOP2-targeting drugs. In this review, we summarize the current progress on the regulation of TOP2α and TOP2β by ubiquitination and SUMOylation. By fully elucidating the basic biology of these essential and complex molecular mechanisms, better strategies may be developed to improve the therapeutic efficacy of TOP2 poisons and minimize the risks of therapy-related secondary malignancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6589-6601
Number of pages13
JournalMolecular biology reports
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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