The importance of poly(ADP-ribose) metabolism in the maintenance of genomic integrity following genotoxic stress has long been firmly established. Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase-1 (PARP-1) and its catabolic counterpart, poly(ADP-ribose) glycohydrolase (PARG) play major roles in the modulation of cell responses to genotoxic stress. Recent discoveries of a number of other enzymes with poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase activity have established poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation as a general biological mechanism in higher eukaryotic cells that not only promotes cellular recovery from genotoxic stress and eliminates severely damaged cells from the organism, but also ensures accurate transmission of genetic information during cell division. Additionally, emerging data suggest the involvement of poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation in the regulation of intracellular trafficking, memory formation and other cellular functions. In this brief review on PARP and PARG enzymes, emphasis is placed on PARP-1, the best understood member of the PARP family and on the relationship of poly(ADP-ribosyl)ation to cancer and other diseases of aging.