We have shown previously that quiescent Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells are less sensitive than log phase CHO cells to the cytotoxic and DNA cleavage effects of etoposide, a drug which appears to act via DNA topoisomerase II. This loss of sensitivity was associated with a decrease in topoisomerase enzyme activity in nuclear extracts of the quiescent cells. We have now extended our observations by examining the basis for the reduction in enzyme activity during quiescence. DNA topoisomerase II content, as assayed by immunoblotting with a polyclonal rabbit anti-topoisomerase II antiserum, was virtually absent in nuclear extracts of quiescent CHO cells in contrast to logarithmically growing cells. This suggests that the previously demonstrated loss of enzyme activity in CHO cells is a function of reduction in content rather than posttranslational modifications of the enzyme. Quiescent human lymphoblastic CCRF cells also exhibited reduced topoisomerase II content compared to actively proliferating cultures, but the difference was less than that observed in CHO cells. In contrast, log and plateau phase cultures of mouse leukemia L1210 cells exhibited similar topoisomerase II content. Reduction in enzyme content correlated with the ability of these cell lines to accumulate during quiescence with a G0-G1 content of DNA. Sensitivity to the DNA cleavage effects of etoposide in dividing and nondividing cells correlated well with enzyme content. As has been observed with CHO cells, both CCRF and L1210 cells in plateau phase were more resistant to the cytotoxic effects of etoposide than those actively dividing. The result with L1210 cells was surprising, however, in light of the equivalent DNA damage observed under the two growth conditions. Our data indicate that topoisomerase II enzyme content is proliferation dependent in some but not all cells and suggest that while enzyme content may be important in drug resistance in some cell types, other factors can decrease the sensitivity of the cell to cleavable complex formation as well.


This work was supported by USPHS Grants CA-24586 and CA-40884.

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