ICRF-193, a novel noncleavable, complex-stabilizing type topoisomerase (topo) II inhibitor, has been shown to target topo II in mammalian cells (Ishida, R., T. Miki, T. Narita, R. Yui, S. Sato, K. R. Utsumi, K. Tanabe, and T. Andoh. 1991. Cancer Res. 51:4909-4916). With the aim of elucidating the roles of topo II in mammalian cells, we examined the effects of ICRF-193 on the transition through the S phase, when the genome is replicated, and through the M phase, when the replicated genome is condensed and segregated. Replication of the genome did not appear to be affected by the drug because the scheduled synthesis of DNA and activation of cdc2 kinase followed by increase in mitotic index occurred normally, while VP-16, a cleavable, complex-stabilizing type topo II inhibitor, inhibited all these processes. In the M phase, however, late stages of chromosome condensation and segregation were clearly blocked by ICRF-193. Inhibition at the stage of compaction of 300-nm diameter chromatin fibers to 600-nm diameter chromatids was demonstrated using the drug during premature chromosome condensation (PCC) induced in tsBN2 baby hamster kidney cells in early S and G2 phases. In spite of interference with M phase chromosome dynamics, other mitotic events such as activation of cdc2 kinase, spindle apparatus reorganization and disassembly and reassembly of nuclear envelopes occurred, and the cells traversed an unusual M phase termed "absence of chromosome segregation" (ACS)-M phase. Cells then continued through further cell cycle rounds, becoming polyploid and losing viability. This effect of ICRF-193 on the cell cycle was shown to parallel that of inactivation of topo II on the cell cycle of the ts top2 mutant yeast. The results strongly suggest that the essential roles of topo II are confined to the M phase, when the enzyme decatenates intertwined replicated chromosomes. In other phases of the cycle, including the S phase, topo II may thus play a complementary role with topo I in controlling the torsional strain accumulated in various genetic processes.

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