Topoisomerase I (TOP1)-mediated DNA damage induced by camptothecin (CPT) in the presence of active transcription has been studied using purified calf thymus TOP1 and T7 RNA polymerase. CPT-stabilized TOP1 cleavable complexes located on the template strand within the transcribed region were found to be into irreversible strand breaks by the RNA polymerase. By contrast, CPT-stabilized TOP1 cleavable complexes located on the non-template strand within the transcribed region was unaffected by the elongating RNA polymerase. Previous studies have demonstrated that the elongating T7 RNA polymerase is arrested by TOP1 cleavable complexes located on the template but not the non-template strand. Together, these results suggest a model in which collision between the TOP1-cleavable complexes located on the template strand and the elongating RNA polymerase results in transcription arrest and conversion of TOP1 cleavable complexes into 'irreversible' strand breaks. The implication of the transcription collision model in DNA damage and repair, as well as cell killing, is discussed.
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