Bisdioxopiperazines are a unique class of topoisomerase II inhibitors that lock topoisomerase II at a point in the enzyme reaction cycle where the enzyme forms a closed clamp around DNA. We examined cell killing by ICRF-187 and ICRF-193 in yeast cells expressing human topoisomerase II alpha (htop-IIalpha). Expression of htop-IIalpha in yeast cells sensitizes them to both ICRF-187 and ICRF-193, compared with cells expressing yeast topoisomerase II. ICRF-193 is still able to exert growth inhibition in the presence of genes encoding both ICRF-193-resistant and ICRF-193-sensitive htop-IIalpha enzymes, indicating that sensitivity to bisdioxopiperazines is dominant. Killing by ICRF-193 occurs more rapidly, than the killing in yeast cells due to a temperature-sensitive yeast topoisomerase II incubated at the non-permissive temperature. These results are reminiscent of a top-II poison such as etoposide. However, the killing caused by ICRF-193 and ICRF-187 is not enhanced by mutations in the RAD52 pathway. The levels of drug-induced DNA cleavage observed with htop-IIalpha in vitro is insufficient to explain the sensitivity induced by this enzyme in yeast cells. Finally, arrest of cells in G(1) does not protect cells from ICRF-193 lethality, a result inconsistent with killing mechanisms due to catalytic inhibition of top-II or stabilization of a cleavable complex. We suggest that the observed pattern of cell killing is most consistent with a poisoning of htop-II by ICRF-193 by a novel mechanism. The accumulation of closed clamp conformations of htop-II induced by ICRF-193 that are trapped on DNA might interfere with transcription, or other DNA metabolic processes, resulting in cell death.