Because of its unique DNA-cleaving and strand-passing activities, topoisomerase II is involved in many aspects of DNA metabolism, including replication, transcription, recombination, and repair. The cytotoxic potential of topoisomerase II-targeted drugs, such as etoposide, is related to their ability to stabilize covalently linked enzyme-DNA complexes, which are intermediates in the enzyme's catalytic cycle. Epidermal growth factor receptor is expressed on the cell surface of the majority of squamous cell carcinomas, and epidermal growth factor binding is known to stimulate a number of cellular transduction pathways, including tyrosine kinase, protein kinase C, and phospholipase C. Because topoisomerase II is a proliferation- dependent protein and has been shown to be a high-affinity substrate for many of these cellular transduction pathways, the effects of epidermal growth factor on cellular regulation and sensitivity to etoposide were studied with the human oral cavity squamous cell line, KB. Topoisomerase II catalytic activity was rapidly and transiently inhibited after the addition at epidermal growth factor to the cellular growth media. Western blot on nuclear extracts did not demonstrate alterations in topoisomerase II polypeptide levels to account for changes in catalytic activity. Epidermal growth factor treatment also led to the formation of stabilized, covalently linked enzyme- DNA complexes. Furthermore, epidermal growth factor-induced, topoisomerase II-mediated DNA strand breaks were additive to those induced by etoposide. This study indicates that epidermal growth factor specifically regulates the catalytic and DNA-cleaving activities of topoisomerase II in KB cells. This may direct clinical strategies for circumventing the intrinsic cellular resistance to chemotherapy commonly observed in squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck.
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