Hypoxia-associated, acutely reduced blood oxygenation can compromise energy metabolism, alter oxidant/antioxidant balance and damage cellular components, including DNA. We show in vivo, in the rat brain that respiratory hypoxia leads to formation of the oxidative DNA lesion, 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine (oh8dG), a biomarker for oxidative DNA damage and to increased expression of a DNA repair enzyme involved in protection of the genome from the mutagenic consequences of oh8dG. The enzyme is a homolog of the Escherichia coli MutY DNA glycosylase (MYH), which excises adenine residues misincorporated opposite the oxidized base, oh8dG. We have cloned a full-length rat MYH (rMYH) cDNA, which encodes 516 amino acids, and by in situ hybridization analysis obtained expression patterns of rMYH mRNA in hippocampal, cortical and cerebellar regions. Ensuing hypoxia, mitochondrial DNA damage was induced and rMYH expression strongly elevated. This is the first evidence for a regulated expression of a DNA repair enzyme in the context of respiratory hypoxia. Our findings support the premise that oxidative DNA damage is repaired in neurons and the possibility that the hypoxia-induced expression of a DNA repair enzyme in the brain represents an adaptive mechanism for protection of neuronal DNA from injurious consequences of disrupted energy metabolism and oxidant/antioxidant homeostasis.