Antibodies to O6-methyldeoxyguanosine were produced in rabbits and utilized in a radioimmunoassay to detect this nucleoside at picomole levels. The specificity of the antibodies was demonstrated by the use of nucleoside analogues as inhibitors in the radioimmunoassay. The antibodies cross-reacted with O6-methylguanosine, O6-methylguanine, and O6-ethylguanosine. There was 10(4) to 10(6) times less sensitivity to inhibition by deoxyadenosine, deoxyguanosine, and guanosine than by O6-methyldeoxyguanosine. The radioimmunoassay also detected O6-methylguanine in DNA alkylated by agents known to produce O6-methylguanine, such as N'-methyl-N-nitrosourea. DNA alkylated with dimethyl sulfate, which does not produce O6-methylguanine in DNA, cross-reacted with the antibodies to a very limited extent. Such an assay system for modified nucleic acid components would be very useful in following the production, persistence, and repair of these lesions in a variety of cells and tissues treated with a broad spectrum of carcinogens and suspected carcinogens.