The base excision repair (BER) pathway historically has been associated with maintaining genome integrity by eliminating nucleobases with small chemical modifications. In the past several years, however, BER was found to play additional roles in genome maintenance and metabolism, including sequence-specific restriction modification and repair of bulky adducts and interstrand crosslinks. Central to this expanded biological utility are specialized DNA glycosylases - enzymes that selectively excise damaged, modified, or mismatched nucleobases. In this review we discuss the newly identified roles of the BER pathway and examine the structural and mechanistic features of the DNA glycosylases that enable these functions.
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