The production of mutations and the reduction in survival of cells treated with alpha,omega-dihaloalkanes is greatly enhanced by the presence of O6-alkylguanine-DNA alkyltransferase (AGT), a DNA repair protein that removes O6-alkylguanine adducts from DNA [Liu, L., Hachey, D. L., Valadez, G., Williams, K. M., Guengerich, F. P., Loktionova, N. A., Kanugula, S., and Pegg, A. E. (2004) J. Biol. Chem. 279, 4250-4259]. The effects of alterations to key residues in the active site of AGT were studied using AGTs with point mutations. It was found that mutants of AGT at positions Tyr114, Arg128, Pro140, Gly156, Gly160, and Tyr158 did not bring about the increase in genotoxicity of 1,2-dibromoethane seen with wild-type AGT, although these mutants, with the exception of those at Tyr114 and Arg128, are known to have sufficient AGT repair function to be able to protect cells from alkylating agents. The R128A mutant was able to react with 1,2-dibromoethane at the Cys145 acceptor site, but the resulting AGT-Cys145S-(CH2)2Br was much less able to produce a covalent adduct with DNA. This result is explained by the need for AGT to induce a structural change in the DNA "flipping" of a guanine nucleotide into the substrate binding pocket where Cys145 is located since the side chain of residue Arg128 plays a critical role in this reaction. Point mutations in AGT at the other sites (Y114A, P140K, and Y158H) reduced the ability of the protein to react with 1,2-dibromoethane as measured by the loss of activity. These results were confirmed by MS analysis of the tryptic peptide that contains the modified Cys145. There was no change in the stability of the AGT-Cys145S-(CH2)2Br intermediate formed in mutants Y158H and P140K. The reaction was studied in detail with mutant P140K using dihaloalkanes of different length; no effect of the mutations was seen with dibromomethane, but an enhanced difference was observed with 1,3-dibromopropane and 1,5-dibromopentane. These results show that even slight alterations in the active site pocket of AGT that do not prevent its ability to protect cells from alkylating agents can block the paradoxical enhancement of the genotoxicity of the larger alpha,omega-dihaloalkanes by reducing the reaction with Cys145.