(-)-Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the most abundant and biologically active polyphenol in green tea (Camellia sinensis) leaves, and many of its cellular effects are consistent with its actions as a topoisomerase II poison. In contrast to genistein and several related bioflavonoids that act as interfacial poisons, EGCG was the first bioflavonoid shown to act as a covalent topoisomerase II poison. Although studies routinely examine the effects of dietary phytochemicals on enzyme and cellular systems, they often fail to consider that many compounds are altered during cooking or cellular metabolism. To this point, the majority of EGCG and related catechins in green tea leaves are epimerized during the brewing process. Epimerization inverts the stereochemistry of the bond that bridges the B- and C-rings and converts EGCG to (-)-gallocatechin gallate (GCG). Consequently, a significant proportion of EGCG that is ingested during the consumption of green tea is actually GCG. Therefore, the effects of GCG and related epimerized green tea catechins on human topoisomerase IIα and IIβ were characterized. GCG increased levels of DNA cleavage mediated by both enzyme isoforms with an activity that was similar to that of EGCG. GCG acted primarily by inhibiting the ability of topoisomerase IIα and IIβ to ligate cleaved DNA. Several lines of evidence indicate that GCG functions as a covalent topoisomerase II poison that adducts the enzyme. Finally, epimerization did not affect the reactivity of the chemical substituents (the three hydroxyl groups on the B-ring) that were required for enzyme poisoning. Thus, the activity of covalent topoisomerase II poisons appears to be less sensitive to stereochemical changes than interfacial poisons.