We have used an antibody probe to measure the levels of topoisomerase II in several transformed and developmentally regulated normal cell types. Transformed cells contain roughly 1 X 10(6) copies of the enzyme. During erythropoiesis in chicken embryos the enzyme level drops from 7.8 X 10(4) copies per erythroblast to less than 300 copies per erythrocyte concomitant with the cessation of mitosis in the blood. Cultured myoblasts also lose topoisomerase II upon fusion into nonproliferating myotubes. When peripheral blood lymphocytes (which lack detectable topoisomerase II) commence proliferation, they express topoisomerase II de novo. Appearance of the enzyme exactly parallels the onset of DNA replication. These results suggest that topoisomerase II is not required for transcription in higher eukaryotes, but that it may function during DNA replication. Furthermore, topoisomerase II is a sensitive and specific marker for proliferating cells.

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