The interaction of topoisomerase II with its DNA cleavage site is critical to the physiological functions of the enzyme. Despite this importance, the specific enzyme-DNA interactions that drive topoisomerase II-mediated DNA cleavage and religation are poorly understood. Therefore, to dissect interactions between the enzyme and its cleavage site, abasic DNA lesions were incorporated into a bilaterally symmetrical and identical cleavage site. Results indicate that topoisomerase II has unique interactions with each position of the 4-base overhang generated by enzyme-mediated DNA cleavage. Lesions located 2 bases 3' to the point of scission stimulated cleavage the most, whereas those 3 bases from the point of scission stimulated cleavage the least. Moreover, an additive and in some cases synergistic cleavage enhancement was observed in oligonucleotides that contained multiple DNA lesions, with levels reaching >60-fold higher than the wild-type substrate. Finally, topoisomerase II efficiently cleaved and religated a DNA substrate in which apyrimidinic sites were simultaneously incorporated at every position on one strand of the 4-base overhang. Therefore, unlike classical DNA ligases in which base pairing is the driving force behind closure of the DNA break, it appears that for topoisomerase II, the enzyme is responsible for the spatial orientation of the DNA termini for ligation.