The 5'-->3'-exonuclease domain of Escherichia coli DNA polymerase I is required for the completion of lagging strand DNA synthesis, and yet this domain is not present in any of the eukaryotic DNA polymerases. Recently, the gene encoding the functional and evolutionary equivalent of this 5'-->3'-exonuclease domain has been identified. It is called FEN-1 in mouse and human cells and RTH1 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This 42-kDa enzyme is required for Okazaki fragment processing. Here we report that FEN-1 physically interacts with proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), the processivity factor for DNA polymerases delta and epsilon. Through protein-protein interactions, PCNA focuses FEN-1 on branched DNA substrates (flap structures) and on nicked DNA substrates, thereby stimulating its activity 10-50-fold but only if PCNA can functionally assemble as a toroidal trimer around the DNA. This interaction is important in the physical orchestration of lagging strand synthesis and may have implications for how PCNA stimulates other members of the FEN-1 nuclease family in a broad range of DNA metabolic transactions.