Human topoisomerase I-B (Top1) efficiently relaxes DNA supercoils during basic cellular processes, and can be transformed into a DNA-damaging agent by antitumour drugs, enzyme mutations and DNA lesions. Here, we describe Gal4-Top1 chimeric proteins (GalTop) with an N-terminal truncation of Top1, and mutations of the Gal4 Zn-cluster and/or Top1 domains that impair their respective DNA-binding activities. Expression levels of chimeras were similar in yeast cells, however, GalTop conferred an increased CPT sensitivity to RAD52- yeast cells as compared to a GalTop with mutations of the Gal4 domain, showing that a functional Gal4 domain can alter in vivo functions of Top1. In vitro enzyme activity was tested with a DNA relaxation assay using negatively supercoiled plasmids with 0 to 5 Gal4 consensus motifs. Only GalTop with a functional Gal4 domain could direct DNA relaxation activity of Top1 specifically to DNA molecules containing Gal4 motifs. By using a substrate competition assay, we could demonstrate that the Gal4-anchored Top1 remains functional and efficiently relax DNA substrates in cis. The enhanced CPT sensitivity of GalTop in yeast cells may then be due to alterations of the chromatin-binding activity of Top1. The GalTop chimeras may indeed mimic a normal mechanism by which Top1 is recruited to chromatin sites in living cells. Such hybrid Top1s may be helpful in further dissecting enzyme functions, and constitute a prototype of a site-specific DNA cutter endowed with high cell lethality.
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