Endonuclease V (deoxyinosine 3'-endonuclease) of Escherichia coli K-12 is a putative DNA repair enzyme that cleaves DNA's containing hypoxanthine, uracil, or mismatched bases. An endonuclease V (nfi) mutation was tested for specific mutator effects on a battery of trp and lac mutant alleles. No marked differences were seen in frequencies of spontaneous reversion. However, when nfi mutants were treated with nitrous acid at a level that was not noticeably mutagenic for nfi(+) strains, they displayed a high frequency of A:T-->G:C, and G:C-->A:T transition mutations. Nitrous acid can deaminate guanine in DNA to xanthine, cytosine to uracil, and adenine to hypoxanthine. The nitrous acid-induced A:T-->G:C transitions were consistent with a role for endonuclease V in the repair of deaminated adenine residues. A confirmatory finding was that the mutagenesis was depressed at a locus containing N(6)-methyladenine, which is known to be relatively resistant to nitrosative deamination. An alkA mutation did not significantly enhance the frequency of A:T-->G:C mutations in an nfi mutant, even though AlkA (3-methyladenine-DNA glycosylase II) has hypoxanthine-DNA glycosylase activity. The nfi mutants also displayed high frequencies of nitrous acid-induced G:C-->A:T transitions. These mutations could not be explained by cytosine deamination because an ung (uracil-DNA N-glycosylase) mutant was not similarly affected. However, these findings are consistent with a role for endonuclease V in the removal of deaminated guanine, i.e., xanthine, from DNA. The results suggest that endonuclease V helps to protect the cell against the mutagenic effects of nitrosative deamination.