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Int J Radiat Biol. 2001 Oct;77(10):1007-21.

Proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA): ringmaster of the genome.

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  • 1Biosciences Division, Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 South Cass Avenue, Argonne, IL 60439-4833, USA.


Proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) protein is one of the central molecules responsible for decisions of life and death of the cell. The PCNA gene is induced by p53, while PCNA protein interacts with p53-controlled proteins Gadd45, MyD118, CR6 and, most importantly, p21, in the process of deciding cell fate. If PCNA protein is present in abundance in the cell in the absence of p53, DNA replication occurs. On the other hand, if PCNA protein levels are high in the cell in the presence of p53, DNA repair takes place. If PCNA is rendered non-functional or is absent or present in low quantities in the cell, apoptosis occurs. The evolution from prokaryotes to eukaryotes involved a change of function of PCNA from a 'simple' sliding clamp protein of the DNA polymerase complex to an executive molecule controlling critical cellular decision pathways. The evolution of multicellular organisms led to the development of multicellular processes such as differentiation, senescence and apoptosis. PCNA, already an essential molecule in the life of single cellular organisms, then became a protein critical for the survival of multicellular organisms.

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