Balancing repair and tolerance of DNA damage caused by alkylating agents

Nat Rev Cancer. 2012 Jan 12;12(2):104-20. doi: 10.1038/nrc3185.


Alkylating agents constitute a major class of frontline chemotherapeutic drugs that inflict cytotoxic DNA damage as their main mode of action, in addition to collateral mutagenic damage. Numerous cellular pathways, including direct DNA damage reversal, base excision repair (BER) and mismatch repair (MMR), respond to alkylation damage to defend against alkylation-induced cell death or mutation. However, maintaining a proper balance of activity both within and between these pathways is crucial for a favourable response of an organism to alkylating agents. Furthermore, the response of an individual to alkylating agents can vary considerably from tissue to tissue and from person to person, pointing to genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that modulate alkylating agent toxicity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkylating Agents / toxicity*
  • Base Pair Mismatch
  • DNA Damage*
  • DNA Repair*
  • Humans


  • Alkylating Agents