All living organisms are vulnerable to DNA damage. Cells respond to this hazard by activating a complex network of checkpoint and repair proteins to preserve genomic integrity. The DNA-encircling, ring-shaped heterotrimeric 9-1-1 complex, a relative of the replication protein PCNA, is a central coordinator of these events. 9-1-1 is loaded to damaged sites where it serves as a platform for the selective recruitment of checkpoint and repair proteins. In this Opinion article, 9-1-1 and proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) are compared and discussed in light of their respective structures and functions. We propose that the interaction partners of 9-1-1 possess specific 9-1-1-interaction boxes, which discriminate between 9-1-1 and PCNA thereby enabling specific interactions with individual 9-1-1 subunits.
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