The maintenance of genetic stability is of crucial importance for any form of life. Prior to cell division in each mammalian cell, the process of DNA replication must faithfully duplicate the three billion bases with an absolute minimum of mistakes. Various environmental and endogenous agents, such as reactive oxygen species (ROS), can modify the structural properties of DNA bases and thus damage the DNA. Upon exposure of cells to oxidative stress, an often generated and highly mutagenic DNA damage is 7,8-dihydro-8-oxo-guanine (8-oxo-G). The estimated steady-state level of 8-oxo-G lesions is about 10(3) per cell/per day in normal tissues and up to 10(5) lesions per cell/per day in cancer tissues. The presence of 8-oxo-G on the replicating strand leads to frequent (10-75%) misincorporations of adenine opposite the lesion (formation of A:8-oxo-G mispairs), subsequently resulting in C:G to A:T transversion mutations. These mutations are among the most predominant somatic mutations in lung, breast, ovarian, gastric and colorectal cancers. Thus, in order to reduce the mutational burden of ROS, human cells have evolved base excision repair (BER) pathways ensuring (i) the correct and efficient repair of A:8-oxo-G mispairs and (ii) the removal of 8-oxo-G lesions from the genome. Very recently it was shown that MutY glycosylase homologue (MUTYH) and DNA polymerase lambda play a crucial role in the accurate repair of A:8-oxo-G mispairs. Here we review the importance of accurate BER of 8-oxo-G damage and its regulation in prevention of cancer.
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