O6-alkylguanine-DNA alkyltransferase: role in carcinogenesis and chemotherapy

Bioessays. 2002 Mar;24(3):255-66. doi: 10.1002/bies.10063.


The DNA in human cells is continuously undergoing damage as consequences of both endogenous processes and exposure to exogenous agents. The resulting structural changes can be repaired by a number of systems that function to preserve genome integrity. Most pathways are multicomponent, involving incision in the damaged DNA strand and resynthesis using the undamaged strand as a template. In contrast, O(6)-alkylguanine-DNA alkyltransferase is able to act as a single protein that reverses specific types of alkylation damage simply by removing the offending alkyl group, which becomes covalently attached to the protein and inactivates it. The types of damage that ATase repairs are potentially toxic, mutagenic, recombinogenic and clastogenic. They are generated by certain classes of carcinogenic and chemotherapeutic alkylating agents. There is consequently a great deal of interest in this repair system in relation to both carcinogenesis and cancer chemotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkylating Agents / toxicity
  • Animals
  • Carcinogens / metabolism*
  • Carcinogens / toxicity
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism*
  • DNA Repair
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • O(6)-Methylguanine-DNA Methyltransferase / biosynthesis
  • O(6)-Methylguanine-DNA Methyltransferase / metabolism
  • O(6)-Methylguanine-DNA Methyltransferase / physiology*


  • Alkylating Agents
  • Carcinogens
  • O(6)-Methylguanine-DNA Methyltransferase