Because of the efficacy of cisplatin and carboplatin in a wide variety of chemotherapeutic regimens, hundreds of platinum(II) and platinum(IV) complexes have been synthesized and evaluated as anticancer agents over the past 30 years. Of the many third generation platinum compounds evaluated to date, only oxaliplatin has been approved for clinical usage in the United States. Thus, it is important to understand the mechanistic basis for the differences in efficacy, mutagenicity and tumor range between cisplatin and oxaliplatin. Cisplatin and oxaliplain form the same types of adducts at the same sites on DNA. The most abundant adduct for both compounds is the Pt-GG intrastrand diadduct. Cisplatin-GG adducts are preferentially recognized by mismatch repair proteins and some damage-recognition proteins, and this differential recognition of cisplatin- and oxaliplatin-GG adducts is thought to contribute to the differences in cytotoxicity and tumor range of cisplatin and oxaliplatin. A detailed kinetic analysis of the insertion and extension steps of dNTP incorporation in the vicinity of the adduct shows that both pol beta and pol eta catalyze translesion synthesis past oxaliplatin-GG adducts with greater efficiency than past cisplatin-GG adducts. In the case of pol eta, the efficiency and fidelity of translesion synthesis in vitro is very similar to that previously observed with cyclobutane TT dimers, suggesting that pol eta is likely to be involved in error-free bypass of Pt adducts in vivo. This has been confirmed for cisplatin by comparing the cisplatin-induced mutation frequency in human fibroblast cell lines with and without pol eta. Thus, the greater efficiency of bypass of oxaliplatin-GG adducts by pol eta is likely to explain the lower mutagenicity of oxaliplatin compared to cisplatin. The ability of these cellular proteins to discriminate between cisplatin and oxaliplatin adducts suggest that there exist significant conformational differences between the adducts, yet the crystal structures of the cisplatin- and oxaliplatin-GG adducts were very similar. We have recently solved the solution structure of the oxaliplatin-GG adduct and have shown that it is significantly different from the previously published solution structures of the cisplatin-GG adducts. Furthermore, the observed differences in conformation provide a logical explanation for the differential recognition of cisplatin and oxaliplatin adducts by mismatch repair and damage-recognition proteins. Molecular modeling studies are currently underway to analyze the mechanistic basis for the differential bypass of cisplatin and oxaliplatin adducts by DNA polymerases.