Exposure to methylmercury (MeHg) acutely at high levels, or via chronic low-level dietary exposure from daily fish consumption, can lead to adverse neurological effects in both the adult and developing conceptus. To determine the impact of variable DNA repair capacity, and the role of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidatively damaged DNA in the mechanism of toxicity, transgenic human embryonic kidney (HEK) 293 cells that stably express either human oxoguanine glycosylase 1 (hOgg1) or its bacterial homolog, formamidopyrimidine glycosylase (Fpg), which primarily repair the oxidative lesion 8-oxo-2′-deoxyguanosine (8-oxodG), were used to assess the in vitro effects of MeHg. Western blotting confirmed the expression of hOgg1 or Fpg in both the nuclear and mitochondrial compartments of their respective cell lines. Following acute (1–2 h) incubations with 0–10 μM MeHg, concentration-dependent decreases in clonogenic survival and cell growth accompanied concentration-dependent increases in lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) release, ROS formation, 8-oxodG levels and apurinic/apyrimidinic (AP) sites, consistent with the onset of cytotoxicity. Paradoxically, hOgg1- and Fpg-expressing HEK 293 cells were more sensitive than wild-type cells stably transfected with the empty vector control to MeHg across all cellular and biochemical parameters, exhibiting reduced clonogenic survival and cell growth, and increased LDH release and DNA damage. Accordingly, upregulation of specific components of the base excision repair (BER) pathway may prove deleterious potentially due to the absence of compensatory enhancement of downstream processes to repair toxic intermediary abasic sites. Thus, interindividual variability in DNA repair activity may constitute an important risk factor for environmentally-initiated, oxidatively damaged DNA and its pathological consequences.