Deoxyinosine occurs in DNA by spontaneous deamination of adenine or by incorporation of dITP during replication. Hypoxanthine residues (HX) are mutagenic and give rise to A-T-->G-C transition. They are substrates for the Escherichia coli product of the alkA gene, the 3-methyl-adenine-DNA glycosylase II (ALK A protein). In mammalian cells and in yeast, HX is excised by the counterpart of ALK A protein, the ANPG or the MAG proteins respectively. We have investigated in vivo the contribution of the alkA gene to counteract the lethal and/or mutagenic effects of HX residues induced by nitrous acid treatment. Using an E.coli strain allowing the detection of A-T-->G-C transition, we show that the alkA mutant has a slightly increased spontaneous rate of mutation and about the same sensitivity when treated with HNO2 as compared with the wild-type strain. Using the E.coli alkA mutant carrying a multicopy plasmid expressing the ALK A protein or the ANPG protein, we barely observe any effect of HNO2 treatment on sensitivity and mutation rate of the bacteria. In contrast, the same experiment performed with a uvrA- strain, deficient in nucleotide excision repair (NER), shows that this mutant is extremely sensitive to HNO2 treatment. Furthermore, the sensitivity and the spontaneous mutation rate observed in the double mutant alkA- uvrA- are almost identical to those of the uvrA- mutant. Hence, NER has the major role in vivo for the repair of lethal and mutagenic lesions induced by HNO2.