We have measured the mutation rates of G(17) and A(17) repeat sequences in cultured mammalian cells with and without mismatch repair and have compared these rates to those of a (CA)(17) repeat sequence. Plasmids containing microsatellites that disrupt the reading frame of a downstream neomycin-resistance gene were introduced into the cells by transfection and revertants were selected using the neomycin analog G418. Comparison of mutation rates within cell lines showed that the mutation rates of A(17) and (CA)(17) sequences were similar in the mismatch repair proficient cells, but the mutation rate of G(17) was significantly higher than that of either A(17) or (CA)(17). In the mismatch repair deficient cells, the G(17) and (CA)(17) mutation rates were similar and were significantly higher than the A(17) rate. PCR analysis of the mutants showed that 1 bp insertions predominated in both mononucleotide repeats in the mismatch repair proficient cells; in mismatch repair deficient cells, 2 bp deletions were the most common mutation in the A(17) sequence, but 1 bp insertions and 2 bp deletions were equally represented in the G(17) sequence. These results indicate that a G(17) repeat is less stable than an A(17) repeat in both mismatch repair proficient and mismatch repair deficient mammalian cells. This observation implies that the replication fidelity is lower in G(17) repeats.