Structure, molecular mechanisms, and evolutionary relationships in DNA topoisomerases

Kevin D. Corbett, James M. Berger

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

331 Scopus citations


Topoisomerases are enzymes that use DNA strand scission, manipulation, and rejoining activities to directly modulate DNA topology. These actions provide a powerful means to effect changes in DNA supercoiling levels, and allow some topoisomerases to both unknot and decatenate chromosomes. Since their initial discovery over three decades ago, researchers have amassed a rich store of information on the cellular roles and regulation of topoisomerases, and have delineated general models for their chemical and physical mechanisms. Topoisomerases are now known to be necessary for the survival of cellular organisms and many viruses and are rich clinical targets for anticancer and antimicrobial treatments. In recent years, crystal structures have been obtained for each of the four types of topoisomerases in a number of distinct conformational and substrate-bound states. In addition, sophisticated biophysical methods have been utilized to study details of topoisomerase reaction dynamics and enzymology. A synthesis of these approaches has provided researchers with new physical insights into how topoisomerases employ chemistry and allostery to direct the large-scale molecular motions needed to pass DNA strands through each other.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-118
Number of pages24
JournalAnnual Review of Biophysics and Biomolecular Structure
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • DNA topology
  • DNA-binding protein
  • GHKL
  • Gyrase
  • Supercoiling
  • Toprim

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Structure, molecular mechanisms, and evolutionary relationships in DNA topoisomerases'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this