To counteract oxidative damage in nucleic acids, mammalian cells are equipped with several defense mechanisms. We herein review that MTH1, MUTYH and OGG1 play important roles in mammalian cells avoiding an accumulation of oxidative DNA damage, both in the nuclear and mitochondrial genomes, thereby suppressing carcinogenesis and cell death. MTH1 efficiently hydrolyzes oxidized purine nucleoside triphosphates, such as 8-oxo-dGTP, 8-oxo-dATP and 2-hydroxy (OH)-dATP, to the monophosphates, thus avoiding the incorporation of such oxidized nucleotides into the nuclear and mitochondrial genomes. OGG1 excises 8-oxoG in DNA as a DNA glycosylase and thus minimizes the accumulation of 8-oxoG in the cellular genomes. MUTYH excises adenine opposite 8-oxoG, and thus suppresses 8-oxoG-induced mutagenesis. MUTYH also possesses a 2-OH-A DNA glycosylase activity for excising 2-OH-A incorporated into the cellular genomes. Increased susceptibilities to spontaneous carcinogenesis of the liver, lung or intestine were observed in MTH1-, OGG1- and MUTYH-null mice, respectively. The increased occurrence of lung tumors in OGG1-null mice was abolished by the concomitant disruption of the Mth1 gene, indicating that an increased accumulation of 8-oxoG and/or 2-OH-A might cause cell death. Furthermore, these defense mechanisms also likely play an important role in neuroprotection.
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