Type IIA topoisomerases allow DNA double helical strands to pass through each other by generating transient DNA double strand breaks βDSBs), and in so doing, resolve torsional strain that accumulates during transcription, DNA replication, chromosome condensation, chromosome segregation and recombination. Whereas most eukaryotes possess a single type IIA enzyme, vertebrates possess two distinct type IIA topoisomerases, Topo IIα and Topo IIβ. Although the roles of Topo IIα, especially in the context of chromosome condensation and segregation, have been well-studied, the roles of Topo IIβ are only beginning to be illuminated. This review begins with a summary of the initial studies surrounding the discovery and characterization of Topo IIβ and then focuses on the insights gained from more recent studies that have elaborated important functions for Topo IIβ in transcriptional regulation.
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