We had shown previously that DNA polymerase beta (beta-pol) null mouse fibroblasts, deficient in base excision repair (BER), are hypersensitive to monofunctional methylating agents but not to hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). This is surprising because beta-pol is thought to be involved in BER of oxidative as well as methylated DNA damage. We confirm these findings here in early-passage cells. However, with time in culture, beta-pol null cells become hypersensitive to H2O2 and other reactive oxygen species-generating agents. Analysis of in vitro BER reveals a strong deficiency in single-nucleotide BER of 8-oxoguanine (8-oxoG) by both early- and late-passage beta-pol null cell extracts. Therefore, in early-passage wild-type and beta-pol null cells, the capacity for single-nucleotide BER of 8-oxoG does not correlate with cellular sensitivity to H2O2. Expression of beta-pol protein in the late-passage null cells almost completely reverses the H2O2-hypersensitivity phenotype. Methoxyamine (MX) treatment sensitizes late-passage wild-type cells to H2O2 as expected for beta-pol-mediated single-nucleotide BER; however in beta-pol null cells, MX has no effect. The data indicate a role(s) of beta-pol-dependent repair in protection against the cytotoxicity of oxidative DNA damage in wild-type cells.