Proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) was originally characterised as a DNA sliding clamp for replicative DNA polymerases and as an essential component of the eukaryotic chromosomal DNA replisome. Subsequent studies, however, have revealed its striking ability to interact with multiple partners, which are involved in several metabolic pathways, including Okazaki fragment processing, DNA repair, translesion DNA synthesis, DNA methylation, chromatin remodeling and cell cycle regulation. PCNA in mammalian cells thus appears to play a key role in controlling several reactions through the coordination and organisation of different partners. Two major questions have emerged: how do these proteins access PCNA in a coordinated manner, and how does PCNA temporally and spatially organise their functions? Structural and biochemical studies are starting to provide a first glimpse of how both tasks can be achieved.