Errors in the replication of DNA are a major source of spontaneous mutations, and a number of cellular functions are involved in correction of these errors to keep the frequency of spontaneous mutations very low. We report here a novel mechanism which prevents replicational errors by degrading a potent mutagenic substrate for DNA synthesis. This error-avoiding process is catalysed by a protein encoded by the mutT gene of Escherichia coli, mutations of which increase the occurrence of A.T----C.G transversions 100 to 10,000 times the level of the wild type. Spontaneous oxidation of dGTP forms 8-oxo-7,8-dihydro-2'-dGTP (8-oxodGTP), which is inserted opposite dA and dC residues of template DNA with almost equal efficiency, and the MutT protein specifically degrades 8-oxodGTP to the monophosphate. This indicates that elimination from the nucleotide pool of the oxidized form of guanine nucleotide is important for the high fidelity of DNA synthesis.