The considerable interest in substituted isoquinolin-1-ones related to 5-aminoisoquinolin-1-one (5-AIQ) as drugs points to a need for an efficient and straightforward synthesis of the 4,5-disubstituted bicycles. Bromination of 5-nitroisoquinolin-1-one gave 4-bromo-5-nitroisoquinolin-1-one but neither this nor 5-amino-4-bromoisoquinolin-1-one would participate in Pd-catalysed couplings. Protection of the lactam as 1-methoxy- and 1-benzyloxy-4-bromo-5-nitroisoquinolines, however, permitted Stille, Suzuki and Buchwald-Hartwig couplings to take place in high yields, insensitive to electronic demands and severe steric bulk in the arylboronic acids. Lithiation of 4-bromo-1-methoxy-5-nitroisoquinoline and quench with iodomethane gave 1-methoxy-4-methyl-5-nitroisoquinoline in low yield. Demethylation of the 1-methoxy-4-substituted-5-nitroisoquinolines with hydrogen bromide gave 4-substituted-5-nitroisoquinolin-1-ones, whereas hydrogenolytic debenzylation was achieved with simultaneous reduction of the 5-nitro group. 5-Amino-4-(4-trifluoromethylphenyl)isoquinolin-1-one was identified as a new potent and selective inhibitor of poly(ADP-ribose)polymerase-2 (PARP-2).