Eukaryotic DNA topoisomerase I (Top1p) catalyzes changes in DNA topology and is the cellular target of camptothecin. Recent reports of enzyme structure highlight the importance of conserved amino acids N-terminal to the active site tyrosine and the involvement of Ash-726 in mediating Top1p sensitivity to camptothecin. To investigate the contribution of this residue to enzyme catalysis, we evaluated the effect of substituting His, Asp, or Ser for Asn-726 on yeast Top1p. Top1N726S and Top1N726D mutant proteins were resistant to camptothecin, although the Ser mutant was distinguished by a lack of detectable changes in activity. Thus, a basic residue immediately N- terminal to the active site tyrosine is required for camptothecin cytotoxicity. However, replacing Asn-726 with Asp or His interfered with distinct aspects of the catalytic cycle, resulting in cell lethality. In contrast to camptothecin, which inhibits enzyme-catalyzed religation of DNA, the His substituent enhanced the rate of DNA scission, whereas the Asp mutation diminished the enzyme binding of DNA. Yet, these effects on enzyme catalysis were not mutually exclusive as the His mutant was hypersensitive to camptothecin. These results suggest distinct mechanisms of poisoning DNA topoisomerase I may be explored in the development of antitumor agents capable of targeting different aspects of the Top1p catalytic cycle.