Eukaryotic DNA topoisomerase I (Top1p) catalyzes changes in DNA topology via the formation of a covalent enzyme-DNA intermediate, which is reversibly stabilized by the anticancer agent camptothecin (CPT). Crystallographic studies of the 70-kDa C terminus of human Top1p bound to duplex DNA describe a monomeric protein clamp circumscribing the DNA helix. The structures, which lack the N-terminal domain, comprise the conserved clamp, an extended linker domain, and the conserved C-terminal active site Tyr domain. CPT bound to the covalent Top1p-DNA complex limits linker flexibility, allowing structural determination of this domain. We previously reported that mutation of Ala653 to Pro in the linker increases the rate of enzyme-catalyzed DNA religation, thereby rendering Top1A653Pp resistant to CPT (Fiorani, P., Bruselles, A., Falconi, M., Chillemi, G., Desideri, A., and Benedetti P. (2003) J. Biol. Chem. 278, 43268-43275). Molecular dynamics studies suggested mutation-induced increases in linker flexibility alter Top1p catalyzed DNA religation. To address the functional consequences of linker flexibility on enzyme catalysis and drug sensitivity, we investigated the interactions of the A653P linker mutation with a self-poisoning T718A mutation within the active site of Top1p. The A653P mutation suppressed the lethal phenotype of Top1T718Ap in yeast, yet did not restore enzyme sensitivity to CPT. However, the specific activity of the double mutant was decreased in vivo and in vitro, consistent with a decrease in DNA binding. These findings support a model where changes in the flexibility or orientation of the linker alter the geometry of the active site and thereby the kinetics of DNA cleavage/religation catalyzed by Top1p. © 2007 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.