Functional roles and cancer variants of the bifunctional glycosylase NEIL2

Anh B. Hua, Joann B. Sweasy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Over 70,000 DNA lesions occur in the cell every day, and the inability to properly repair them can lead to mutations and destabilize the genome, resulting in carcinogenesis. The base excision repair (BER) pathway is critical for maintaining genomic integrity by repairing small base lesions, abasic sites and single-stranded breaks. Monofunctional and bifunctional glycosylases initiate the first step of BER by recognizing and excising specific base lesions, followed by DNA end processing, gap filling, and finally nick sealing. The Nei-like 2 (NEIL2) enzyme is a critical bifunctional DNA glycosylase in BER that preferentially excises cytosine oxidation products and abasic sites from single-stranded, double-stranded, and bubble-structured DNA. NEIL2 has been implicated to have important roles in several cellular functions, including genome maintenance, participation in active demethylation, and modulation of the immune response. Several germline and somatic variants of NEIL2 with altered expression and enzymatic activity have been reported in the literature linking them to cancers. In this review, we provide an overview of NEIL2 cellular functions and summarize current findings on NEIL2 variants and their relationship to cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEnvironmental and Molecular Mutagenesis
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • DNA glycosylase
  • NEIL2
  • abasic sites
  • base excision repair
  • cancer
  • inflammation
  • variants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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