A mutant yeast type II topoisomerase was generated by in vitro mutagenesis followed by selection in vivo for resistance to the quinolone CP-115,953. The resulting mutant enzyme had a single point mutation which converted His1012 to Tyr (top2H1012Y). top2H1012Y was overexpressed in yeast, purified, and characterized in vitro. The mutant type II topoisomerase was slightly less active than the wild type enzyme, apparently due to a decreased affinity for DNA. The affinity of the mutant enzyme for ATP was similar to that of wild type topoisomerase II. As determined by DNA cleavage assays, top2H1012Y was resistant to CP-115,953 and etoposide both prior to and following the DNA strand-passage event. In marked contrast, the mutant enzyme displayed wild type sensitivity to amsacrine and was severalfold hypersensitive to ellipticine. A similar pattern of resistance was observed in yeast cells harboring the top2H1012Y allele. Thus, it appears that the mutant type II topoisomerase can distinguish between nonintercalative and intercalative agents. Finally, the His1012-->Tyr mutation defines a potential new drug resistance-conferring region on eukaryotic topoisomerase II.