Genotoxic stress generates single- and double-strand DNA breaks either through direct damage by reactive oxygen species or as intermediates of DNA repair. Failure to detect and repair DNA strand breaks leads to deleterious consequences such as chromosomal aberrations, genomic instability and cell death. DNA strand breaks disrupt the superhelical state of cellular DNA, which further disturbs the chromatin architecture and gene activity regulation. Proteins from the poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) family, such as PARP1 and PARP2, use NAD+ as a substrate to catalyse the synthesis of polymeric chains consisting of ADP-ribose units covalently attached to an acceptor molecule. PARP1 and PARP2 are regarded as DNA damage sensors that, upon activation by strand breaks, poly(ADP-ribosyl)ate themselves and nuclear acceptor proteins. Noteworthy, the regularly branched structure of poly(ADP-ribose) polymer suggests that the mechanism of its synthesis may involve circular movement of PARP1 around the DNA helix, with a branching point in PAR corresponding to one complete 360° turn. We propose that PARP1 stays bound to a DNA strand break end, but rotates around the helix displaced by the growing poly(ADP-ribose) chain, and that this rotation could introduce positive supercoils into damaged chromosomal DNA. This topology modulation would enable nucleosome displacement and chromatin decondensation around the lesion site, facilitating the access of DNA repair proteins or transcription factors. PARP1-mediated DNA supercoiling can be transmitted over long distances, resulting in changes in the high-order chromatin structures. The available structures of PARP1 are consistent with the strand break-induced PAR synthesis as a driving force for PARP1 rotation around the DNA axis.