Evidence is presented on two forms of uracil-DNA glycosylase (UDG1 and UDG2) that exist in human cells. We have developed an affinity technique to isolate uracil-DNA glycosylases from HeLa cells. This technique relies on the use of a uracil-DNA glycosylase inhibitor (Ugi) produced by the Bacillus subtilis bacteriophage, PBS2. Affinity-purified preparations of uracil-DNA glycosylase, derived from total HeLa cell extracts, reveal a group of bands in the 36,000 molecular weight range and a single 30,000 molecular weight band when analyzed by SDS-PAGE and silver staining. In contrast, only the 30,000 molecular weight band is seen in HeLa mitochondrial preparations. Separation of HeLa cell nuclei from the postnuclear supernatant reveals that uracil-DNA glycosylase activity is evenly distributed between the nuclear compartment and the postnuclear components of the cell. Immunostaining of a nuclear extract with antisera to UDG1 indicates that the nuclear associated uracil-DNA glycosylase activity is not associated with the highly conserved uracil-DNA glycosylase, UDG1. With the use of Ugi-Sepharose affinity chromatography, we show that a second and distinct uracil-DNA glycosylase is associated with the nuclear compartment. Immunoblot analysis, utilizing antisera generated against UDG1, reveals that the 30,000 molecular weight protein and a protein in the 36,000 range share common epitopes. Cycloheximide treatment of HeLa cells indicates that upon inhibition of protein synthesis, the higher molecular weight species disappears and is apparently post-translationally processed into a lower molecular weight form. This is substantiated by mitochondrial import studies which reveal that in vitro expressed UDG1 becomes resistant to trypsin treatment within 15 min of incubation with mitochondria. Within this time frame, a lower molecular weight form of uracil-DNA glycosylase appears and is associated with the mitochondria. Antibodies generated against peptides from specific regions of the cyclin-like uracil-DNA glycosylase (UDG2), demonstrate that this nuclear glycosylase is a phosphoprotein with a molecular weight in the range of 36,000. SDS-PAGE analysis of Ugi affinity-purified and immunoprecipitated UDG2 reveals two closely migrating phosphate-containing species, indicating that UDG2 either contains multiple phosphorylation sites (resulting in heterogeneous migration) or that two distinct forms of UDG2 exist in the cell. Cell staining of various cultured human cell lines corroborates the finding that UDG1 is largely excluded from the nucleus and that UDG2 resides mainly in the nucleus. Our results indicate that UDG1 is targeted to the mitochondria and undergoes proteolytic processing typical of resident mitochondrial proteins that are encoded by nuclear DNA. These results also indicate that the cyclin-like uracil-DNA glycosylase (UDG2) may be a likely candidate for the nuclear located base-excision repair enzyme.