Deamination of cytosine to uracil is one of the major pro-mutagenic events in DNA, causing G:C-->A:T transition mutations if not repaired before replication. Repair of uracil-DNA is achieved in a base-excision pathway initiated by a uracil-DNA glycosylase (UDG) enzyme of which four families have so far been identified. Family-1 enzymes are active against uracil in ssDNA and dsDNA, and recognise uracil explicitly in an extrahelical conformation via a combination of protein and bound-water interactions. Extrahelical recognition requires an efficient process of substrate location by 'base-sampling' probably by hopping or gliding along the DNA. Family-2 enzymes are mismatch specific and explicitly recognise the widowed guanine on the complementary strand rather than the extrahelical scissile pyrimidine. This allows a broader specificity so that some Family-2 enzymes can excise uracil and 3, N(4)-ethenocytosine from mismatches with guanine. Although structures are not yet available for Family-3 (SMUG) and Family-4 enzymes, sequence analysis suggests similar overall folds, and identifies common active site motifs but with a surprising lack of conservation of catalytic residues between members of the super-family.