Quinolones, which target gyrase and topoisomerase IV, are the most widely prescribed antibacterials worldwide. Unfortunately, their use is threatened by the increasing prevalence of target-mediated drug resistance. Greater than 90% of mutations that confer quinolone resistance act by disrupting enzyme-drug interactions coordinated by a critical water-metal ion bridge. Quinazolinediones are quinolone-like drugs but lack the skeletal features necessary to support the bridge interaction. These compounds are of clinical interest, however, because they retain activity against the most common quinolone resistance mutations. We utilized a chemical biology approach to determine how quinazolinediones overcome quinolone resistance in Bacillus anthracis topoisomerase IV. Quinazolinediones that retain activity against quinolone-resistant topoisomerase IV do so primarily by establishing novel interactions through the C7 substituent, rather than the drug skeleton. Because some quinolones are highly active against human topoisomerase IIα, we also determined how clinically relevant quinolones discriminate between the bacterial and human enzymes. Clinically relevant quinolones display poor activity against topoisomerase IIα because the human enzyme cannot support drug interactions mediated by the water-metal ion bridge. However, the inclusion of substituents that allow quinazolinediones to overcome topoisomerase IV-mediated quinolone resistance can cause cross-reactivity against topoisomerase IIα. Therefore, a major challenge in designing drugs that overcome quinolone resistance lies in the ability to identify substituents that mediate strong interactions with the bacterial, but not the human, enzymes. On the basis of our understanding of quinolone-enzyme interactions, we have identified three compounds that display high activity against quinolone-resistant B. anthracis topoisomerase IV but low activity against human topoisomerase IIα. © 2013 American Chemical Society.