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PCNA (proliferating cell nuclear antigen)

Written2011-10Ivaylo Stoimenov, Thomas Helleday
Department of Genetics Microbiology, Toxicology, Stockholm University, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden (IS, TH); Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology & Biology, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX3 7DQ, UK (TH)

(Note : for Links provided by Atlas : click)


Other aliasMGC8367
LocusID (NCBI) 5111
Atlas_Id 41670
Location 20p13  [Link to chromosome band 20p13]
Location_base_pair Starts at and ends at bp from pter
Fusion genes
(updated 2017)
Data from Atlas, Mitelman, Cosmic Fusion, Fusion Cancer, TCGA fusion databases with official HUGO symbols (see references in chromosomal bands)
PCNA (20p13) / PCNA (20p13)


  The localisation of the PCNA gene (in red) at the interface between 20p12.3 and 20p13 histological bands on chromosome 20.
Description The PCNA gene is situated on human chromosome 20 and it spans about 12 kb. It is a single-copy gene, however, several pseudogenes have been noted. The precise localization of the PCNA gene is at the border of two histological G-bands (p12.3 and p13) (Webb et al., 1990), thus it is reported in both locations depending on the probe used. The human PCNA gene was first cloned and characterized in 1989 by Travali and co-workers (Travali et al., 1989).
Transcription There are two reported gene transcripts, which encode the same protein.

 NCBI Reference SequenceLength (unspliced)Length (spliced)ExonsProteinAA
PCNA transcript variant 1NM_002592.211670 bp1355 bp7NP_002583.1261
PCNA transcript variant 2NM_182649.15049 bp1319 bp6NP_872590.1261

PCNA transcript variant 1 is 1355 bp long after the completion of mRNA splicing. It has NCBI Reference Sequence code NM_002592.2 (NCBI). The PCNA transcript variant 1 has seven exons, six of which are contributing to the protein sequence. The first intron is relatively large in comparison with the other PCNA transcript variant. Following the splicing the length of the transcript is shortened to about 12% of that of the initial transcript. The translation starts from the middle of the 2nd exon and ends in the beginning of 7th exon. The product is a full length protein, designated as NP_002583.1 (NCBI), with 261 amino acids.
PCNA transcript variant 2 is 1319 bp long after the completion of mRNA splicing. It has NCBI Reference Sequence code NM_182649.1 (NCBI). The PCNA transcript variant 2 has six exons, which are contributing to the protein sequence. After the splicing the length of the transcript is shortened to about 26% of that of the initial transcript. Translation starts from the end of the 1st exon and ends in the beginning of 7th exon. The product is a full length protein, designated as NP_872590.1 (NCBI), with 261 amino acids.

Pseudogene PCNAP - one pseudogene on human chromosome X - p11 (Ku et al., 1989; Webb et al., 1990).
PCNAP1 and PCNAP2 - two pseudogenes in tandem on human chromosome 4 - q24 (Taniguchi et al., 1996).
There are several other possible pseudogenes:
LOC390102 on chromosome 11 - p15.1 (Webb et al., 1990),
LOC392454 on chromosome X - p11.3 (Ku et al., 1989; Webb et al., 1990).


  PCNA and mapped interactions with several proteins (D-type of cyclins, CDKN1A, FEN1, RFC complex, polymerase epsilon and polymerase delta). Two residues are highlighted, lysine at position 164 (site of ubiquitylation) and tyrosine at position 211 (site of phosphorylation).
Description The human PCNA protein is a polypeptide of 261 amino acids and theoretical molecular weight of about 29 kDa. The functional protein is a homotrimer, build from three identical units interacting head-to-tail and forming a doughnut shaped molecule. There is an evidence for the existence of a double homotrimer in vivo (Naryzhny et al., 2005).
Expression Expressed in nearly all proliferating tissues with high levels detected in thymus, bone marrow, foetal liver and certain cells of the small intestine and colon.
Localisation PCNA is exclusively localized in the nucleus. It can be detected by immunofluorescence in all proliferating nuclei as discrete nuclear foci, representing sites of ongoing DNA replication and/or DNA repair.
Function PCNA was originally discovered as an antigen, reacting with antibodies derived from sera of patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (Miyachi et al., 1978). The first assigned function of the PCNA protein is as an auxiliary factor of polymerase delta (Tan et al., 1986; Prelich et al., 1987). Later it was suggested that PCNA functions as a cofactor to many other eukaryotic polymerases such as polymerase epsilon, polymerase beta and several specialised polymerases known as translesion synthesis polymerases (eta, kappa, lambda, theta, etc.), with which PCNA is known to interact (Naryzhny, 2008). The role of PCNA in DNA replication is thoroughly investigated and PCNA is proposed to serve as a switch between the priming polymerase alpha and replicative polymerases (delta and epsilon) and functioning as a cofator of the latter polymerases. Complementary to enhancing the processivity of DNA replication, PCNA is known to coordinate the maturation of Okazaki fragments through interaction with FEN1 and stimulation of the flap endonuclease activity. PCNA interacts with large number of proteins, suggesting many functions in vivo (Naryzhny, 2008; Stoimenov and Helleday, 2009). There is evidence, derived from experiments in yeast, that PCNA may be involved in the establishment of sister chromatid cohesion in S phase of the cell cycle (Moldovan et al., 2006). PCNA is an indispensable factor for different DNA repair pathways including mismatch repair, nucleotide excision repair and sub-pathways of base excision repair. There is a growing body of evidence for the function of PCNA in the chromatin remodelling and organisation. The interaction of PCNA and CAF1 is in the heart of the nucleosome assembly, while the chromatin modification is also known to be regulated by PCNA through the known interaction with DNMT1 and HDAC1. One of the most stable interactions of PCNA is that with the cyclin-kinase inhibitor CDKN1A, which suggests a role of PCNA in the cell cycle progression. Another evidence for the involvement of PCNA in the cell cylcle control is the interaction with cyclin-D. Several amino-acid residues are post-translationally modified, suggesting even more complex functions (Stoimenov and Helleday, 2009). PCNA could be subjected to post-translational phosphorylation, acetylation, methylation, ubiquitylation and SUMOylation.

Implicated in

Note The absence of the proliferating nuclear cell antigen (PCNA) protein is embryonic lethal in mice (Roa et al., 2008; Peled et al., 2008). The embryonic lethality in mice also suggests a critical importance of the PCNA protein for humans at least in proliferating tissues (Moldovan et al., 2007). The knockout mice for PCNA (Pcna-/-) are dying in embryonic state, consistent with the role of PCNA in orchestrating DNA replication (Moldovan et al., 2007). In addition to this fact, there are no known mutations of the PCNA protein in humans, which therefore leads to a speculation that PCNA is so vital that any alternation of its sequence would have deleterious consequences. One suggestion for such essential function is the fact that both sequences of the PCNA protein and of the respective gene are highly conserved during evolution (Stoimenov and Helleday, 2009). Indeed, a human population study of PCNA polymorphisms shows only 7 intronic single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) and 2 synonymous exonic SNPs (Ma et al., 2000).
According to OMIM and Human Locus Specific Mutation Databases there is no known disease, which is caused by mutation or loss of function of the PCNA protein.
The only implication of PCNA in human disease is as a prognostic or diagnostic marker, sometimes used together with other markers. The utilisation of PCNA as a marker is very much restricted to an illustration of proliferation potential and therefore cannot be specific for any disease. However, PCNA is indeed used as a prognostic and diagnostic marker in several human diseases in clinical practice, as shown below. The list is far from complete since any human disease associated with proliferation could utilise PCNA as a marker.
Entity Primary breast cancer
Note A group of patients with high PCNA labeling index was associated with poor overall survival compared with the low PCNA labeling index group in several immunohistochemical studies (Horiguchi et al., 1998; Chu et al., 1998). PCNA labeling index is stated to be an independent predictor in primary breast cancer patients (Horiguchi et al., 1998) with a prognostic value (Chu et al., 1998).
Entity Chronic lymphoid leukemia (CLL)
Note There are attempts to correlate the levels of the PCNA protein in cells derived from patients with chronic lymphoid leukemia and the prognosis of survival (del Giglio et al., 1992; Faderl et al., 2002). The high level of PCNA in the cells of CLL patients suggests a higher proliferative activity and potentially shorter survival (del Giglio et al., 1992). Intracellular levels of PCNA protein can be used as marker to predict clinical behaviour and overall survival in patients with CLL (Faderl et al., 2002).
Entity Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
Note In studies conducting immunohistochemical staining of materials from patients with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, PCNA labeling index together with AgNOR score can be used to predict overall survival (Korkolopoulou et al., 1998). PCNA is the only independent predictor of the post-relapse survival and the histologic grade, which is the most important indicator of disease-free survival (Korkolopoulou et al., 1998).
Entity Malignant and nonmalignant skin diseases
Note In one study of comparison between malignant skin diseases (squamous cell carcinoma, adult T lymphotrophic leukemia, mycosis fungoides, malignant melanoma and malignant lymphoma) and nonmalignant skin diseases (resistant atopic dermatitis, psoriasis vulgaris, verruca vulgaris) the anti-PCNA staining was used as a prognostic marker (Kawahira, 1999). The percentage of PCNA-positive cells reported in the study was higher for malignant skin diseases in comparison with the non-malignant skin deseases (Kawahira, 1999). The localization of PCNA-positive cells was found to be in the dermis and the basal layer in case of the malignant skin diseases, whereas in the nonmalignant skin diseases PCNA-positive cells were detected only in the basal layer (Kawahira, 1999). The PCNA labeling index and the distribution of PCNA-positive cells in the skin were suggested to be helpful in the early diagnosis of skin malignancies.
Entity Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
Note The anti-PCNA antibodies were originally found in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (Miyachi et al., 1978), most of whom had diffuse proliferative glomerulonephritis in a small clinical study (Fritzler et al., 1983).


Proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) immunolabeling as a prognostic factor in invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast in Taiwan.
Chu JS, Huang CS, Chang KJ.
Cancer Lett. 1998 Sep 25;131(2):145-52.
PMID 9851246
Expression profile of 11 proteins and their prognostic significance in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
Faderl S, Keating MJ, Do KA, Liang SY, Kantarjian HM, O'Brien S, Garcia-Manero G, Manshouri T, Albitar M.
Leukemia. 2002 Jun;16(6):1045-52.
PMID 12040436
Clinical features of patients with antibodies directed against proliferating cell nuclear antigen.
Fritzler MJ, McCarty GA, Ryan JP, Kinsella TD.
Arthritis Rheum. 1983 Feb;26(2):140-5.
PMID 6600614
Long-term prognostic value of PCNA labeling index in primary operable breast cancer.
Horiguchi J, Iino Y, Takei H, Maemura M, Takeyoshi I, Yokoe T, Ohwada S, Oyama T, Nakajima T, Morishita Y.
Oncol Rep. 1998 May-Jun;5(3):641-4.
PMID 9538167
Immunohistochemical staining of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) in malignant and nonmalignant skin diseases.
Kawahira K.
Arch Dermatol Res. 1999 Jul-Aug;291(7-8):413-8.
PMID 10482011
Prognostic implications of proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), AgNORs and P53 in non-Hodgkin's lymphomas.
Korkolopoulou P, Angelopoulou MK, Kontopidou F, Tsengas A, Patsouris E, Kittas C, Pangalis GA.
Leuk Lymphoma. 1998 Aug;30(5-6):625-36.
PMID 9711925
Human gene for proliferating cell nuclear antigen has pseudogenes and localizes to chromosome 20.
Ku DH, Travali S, Calabretta B, Huebner K, Baserga R.
Somat Cell Mol Genet. 1989 Jul;15(4):297-307.
PMID 2569765
Single nucleotide polymorphism analyses of the human proliferating cell nuclear antigen (pCNA) and flap endonuclease (FEN1) genes.
Ma X, Jin Q, Forsti A, Hemminki K, Kumar R.
Int J Cancer. 2000 Dec 15;88(6):938-42.
PMID 11093818
Autoantibody to a nuclear antigen in proliferating cells.
Miyachi K, Fritzler MJ, Tan EM.
J Immunol. 1978 Dec;121(6):2228-34.
PMID 102692
PCNA, the maestro of the replication fork.
Moldovan GL, Pfander B, Jentsch S.
Cell. 2007 May 18;129(4):665-79. (REVIEW)
PMID 17512402
Proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) may function as a double homotrimer complex in the mammalian cell.
Naryzhny SN, Zhao H, Lee H.
J Biol Chem. 2005 Apr 8;280(14):13888-94. Epub 2005 Feb 1.
PMID 15805117
Proliferating cell nuclear antigen: a proteomics view.
Naryzhny SN.
Cell Mol Life Sci. 2008 Nov;65(23):3789-808. (REVIEW)
PMID 18726183
The biochemistry of somatic hypermutation.
Peled JU, Kuang FL, Iglesias-Ussel MD, Roa S, Kalis SL, Goodman MF, Scharff MD.
Annu Rev Immunol. 2008;26:481-511. (REVIEW)
PMID 18304001
Functional identity of proliferating cell nuclear antigen and a DNA polymerase-delta auxiliary protein.
Prelich G, Tan CK, Kostura M, Mathews MB, So AG, Downey KM, Stillman B.
Nature. 1987 Apr 2-8;326(6112):517-20.
PMID 2882424
Ubiquitylated PCNA plays a role in somatic hypermutation and class-switch recombination and is required for meiotic progression.
Roa S, Avdievich E, Peled JU, Maccarthy T, Werling U, Kuang FL, Kan R, Zhao C, Bergman A, Cohen PE, Edelmann W, Scharff MD.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Oct 21;105(42):16248-53. Epub 2008 Oct 14.
PMID 18854411
PCNA on the crossroad of cancer.
Stoimenov I, Helleday T.
Biochem Soc Trans. 2009 Jun;37(Pt 3):605-13.
PMID 19442257
An auxiliary protein for DNA polymerase-delta from fetal calf thymus.
Tan CK, Castillo C, So AG, Downey KM.
J Biol Chem. 1986 Sep 15;261(26):12310-6.
PMID 3745189
Cloning, sequencing, and chromosomal localization of two tandemly arranged human pseudogenes for the proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA).
Taniguchi Y, Katsumata Y, Koido S, Suemizu H, Yoshimura S, Moriuchi T, Okumura K, Kagotani K, Taguchi H, Imanishi T, Gojobori T, Inoko H.
Mamm Genome. 1996 Dec;7(12):906-8.
PMID 8995762
Structure of the human gene for the proliferating cell nuclear antigen.
Travali S, Ku DH, Rizzo MG, Ottavio L, Baserga R, Calabretta B.
J Biol Chem. 1989 May 5;264(13):7466-72.
PMID 2565339
Localization of the gene for human proliferating nuclear antigen/cyclin by in situ hybridization.
Webb G, Parsons P, Chenevix-Trench G.
Hum Genet. 1990 Nov;86(1):84-6.
PMID 1979311
Prognostic value of proliferating cell nuclear antigen expression in chronic lymphoid leukemia.
del Giglio A, O'Brien S, Ford R, Saya H, Manning J, Keating M, Johnston D, Khetan R, el-Naggar A, Deisseroth A.
Blood. 1992 May 15;79(10):2717-20.
PMID 1350226


This paper should be referenced as such :
Stoimenov, I ; Helleday, T
PCNA (proliferating cell nuclear antigen)
Atlas Genet Cytogenet Oncol Haematol. 2012;16(3):208-211.
Free journal version : [ pdf ]   [ DOI ]
On line version :

Other Leukemias implicated (Data extracted from papers in the Atlas) [ 1 ]
  t(10;10)(p12;q21) CTNNA3/ARHGAP21

Other Solid tumors implicated (Data extracted from papers in the Atlas) [ 4 ]
  Head and Neck: Laryngeal tumors: an overview
Head and Neck: Oral leukoplakia
Bone: Osteoblastoma

External links

Genomic and cartography
Gene and transcription
RefSeq transcript (Entrez)
RefSeq genomic (Entrez)
SOURCE (Princeton)Expression in : [Datasets]   [Normal Tissue Atlas]  [carcinoma Classsification]  [NCI60]
BioGPS (Tissue expression)5111
Protein : pattern, domain, 3D structure
Domain families : Pfam (Sanger)
Domain families : Pfam (NCBI)
Protein Interaction databases
Ontologies - Pathways
Clinical trials, drugs, therapy
canSAR (ICR) (select the gene name)
REVIEW articlesautomatic search in PubMed
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