DNA joining events are required for the completion of DNA replication, DNA excision repair and genetic recombination. Five DNA ligase activities, I-V, have been purified from mammalian cell extracts and three mammalian LIG genes, LIG1 LIG3 and LIG4, have been cloned. During DNA replication, the joining of Okazaki fragments by the LIG1 gene product appears to be mediated by an interaction with proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA). This interaction may also occur during the completion of mismatch, nucleotide excision and base excision repair (BER). In addition, DNA ligase I participates in a second BER pathway that is carried out by a multiprotein complex in which DNA ligase I interacts directly with DNA polymerase beta. DNA ligase III alpha and DNA ligase III beta, which are generated by alternative splicing of the LIG3 gene, can be distinguished by their ability to bind to the DNA repair protein, XRCC1. The interaction between DNA ligase III alpha and XRCC1, which occurs through BRCT motifs in the C-termini of these polypeptides, implicates this isoform of DNA ligase III in the repair of DNA single-strand breaks and BER. DNA ligase II appears to be a proteolytic fragment of DNA ligase III alpha. The restricted expression of DNA ligase III beta suggests that this enzyme may function in the completion of meiotic recombination or in a postmeiosis DNA repair pathway. Complex formation between DNA ligase IV and the DNA repair protein XRCC4 involves the C-terminal region of DNA ligase IV, which contains two BRCT motifs. This interaction, which stimulates DNA joining activity, implies that DNA ligase IV functions in V(D)J recombination and non-homologous end-joining of DNA double-strand breaks. At the present time, it is not known whether DNA ligase V is derived from one of the known mammalian LIG genes or is the product of a novel gene.