The role of DNA topoisomerase II in multifactorial resistance to antineoplastic agents is reviewed. We have previously observed that in Adriamycin (ADR) resistant P388 murine leukemia cells, DNA topoisomerase II enzyme content and cleavage and catalytic activities were all reduced and correlated with drug sensitivity. A subsequent study provided evidence for an allelic mutation of the gene for DNA topoisomerase II as a possible molecular mechanism underlying the enzyme alterations. To ascertain how universal were these observations, a study was undertaken of DNA topoisomerase II (topo II) in other cell lines resistant either to ADR or another topo-II-interactive drug, mitoxantrone. In ADR-resistant Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells, topo II cleavage and catalytic activities and the gene product were all reduced; however, only cleavage activity correlated with drug sensitivity. No differences were noted between ADR-sensitive and -resistant CHO cells by Northern or Southern blot analysis, raising the possibility that the enzyme in resistant cells may be regulated at a posttranscriptional level. Findings on a gel retardation or immunoblot band depletion assay showed that the enzyme in CHO/ADR-1 cells failed to bind to the DNA–drug–enzyme complex, suggesting a qualitative as well as quantitative enzyme alteration in those cells. Mitoxantrone-resistant HeLa cells (Mito-1) displayed not only a lower level of cleavage activity but also of enzyme content and catalytic activity, relative to the parental drug-sensitive HeLa cells. As with the CHO cells, no differences were noted between mitoxantrone-sensitive and -resistant HeLa cells on Northern and Southern blot analyses, suggesting that enzyme regulation in these resistant cells may also be at a posttranscriptional level. There was no evidence of enzyme binding to DNA–drug–enzyme complex in resistant HeLa/Mito-1 cells, once again suggesting the presence of a qualitative enzyme alteration. The findings in both ADR-resistant CHO cells and mitoxantrone-resistant HeLa cells do not exclude the possibility that subtle changes in the topoisomerase II gene, such as point mutations, may account for these enzyme changes. The apparent qualitative changes observed in enzyme may result from posttranslational modifications such as phosphorylation.Key words: drug resistance, DNA topoisomerase II, Adriamycin, mitoxantrone.