Deoxycytidine, deoxyadenosine and deoxyguanosine undergo spontaneous deamination to form deoxyuridine, deoxyinosine and deoxyxanthosine, respectively. In this manuscript, we show that in addition to its known ability to recognize deoxyuridine and deoxyinosine in DNA, Escherichia coli endonuclease V cleaves DNA containing deoxyxanthosine. However, Alk A protein and human methylpurine glycosylase are unable to recognize deoxyxanthosine. Endonuclease V cleaves DNA containing deoxyxanthosine at the second phosphodiester bond 3' to deoxyxanthosine, generating a 3'-hydroxyl and a 5'-phosphoryl group at the nick site. This endonucleolytic activity requires Mg(2+) or Mn(2+), and is highly specific for double stranded DNA. Endonuclease V-catalyzed cleavage of DNA containing deoxyxanthosine is a result of its ability to recognize the altered base and not due to its mismatch-specific endonuclease activity. The ability of endonuclease V to recognize both deoxyinosine and deoxyxanthosine suggests that endonuclease V is important for preventing mutations that might arise as a result of deamination of purines.