The Many Roles of PCNA in Eukaryotic DNA Replication

Enzymes. 2016;39:231-54. doi: 10.1016/bs.enz.2016.03.003. Epub 2016 Apr 19.


Proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) plays critical roles in many aspects of DNA replication and replication-associated processes, including translesion synthesis, error-free damage bypass, break-induced replication, mismatch repair, and chromatin assembly. Since its discovery, our view of PCNA has evolved from a replication accessory factor to the hub protein in a large protein-protein interaction network that organizes and orchestrates many of the key events at the replication fork. We begin this review article with an overview of the structure and function of PCNA. We discuss the ways its many interacting partners bind and how these interactions are regulated by posttranslational modifications such as ubiquitylation and sumoylation. We then explore the many roles of PCNA in normal DNA replication and in replication-coupled DNA damage tolerance and repair processes. We conclude by considering how PCNA can interact physically with so many binding partners to carry out its numerous roles. We propose that there is a large, dynamic network of linked PCNA molecules at and around the replication fork. This network would serve to increase the local concentration of all the proteins necessary for DNA replication and replication-associated processes and to regulate their various activities.

Keywords: Break-induced replication; DNA polymerase; DNA repair; DNA replication; Mismatch repair; PCNA; Processivity factor; Proliferating cell nuclear antigen; Sliding clamp; Translesion synthesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA Damage
  • DNA Repair
  • DNA Replication*
  • Eukaryota / genetics*
  • Eukaryota / metabolism*
  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen / metabolism*


  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen