Two related protein complexes, cohesin and condensin, are essential for separating identical copies of the genome into daughter cells during cell division. Cohesin glues replicated sister chromatids together until they split at anaphase, whereas condensin reorganizes chromosomes into their highly compact mitotic structure. Unexpectedly, mutations in the subunits of these complexes have been uncovered in genetic screens that target completely different processes. Exciting new evidence is emerging that cohesin and condensin influence crucial processes during interphase, and unforeseen aspects of mitosis. Each complex can perform several roles, and individual subunits can associate with different sets of proteins to achieve diverse functions, including the regulation of gene expression, DNA repair, cell-cycle checkpoints and centromere organization.