To maintain genomic stability, despite constant exposure to agents that damage DNA, eukaryotic cells have developed elaborate and highly conserved pathways of DNA damage sensing, signalling and repair. In this review, we concentrate mainly on what we know about DNA damage sensing with particular reference to Lcd1p, a yeast protein that functions early in DNA damage signalling, and MDC1 (mediator of DNA damage checkpoint 1), a recently identified human protein that may be involved in recruiting the MRE11 complex to radiation-induced nuclear foci. We describe a model for the DNA damage response in which factors are recruited sequentially to sites of DNA damage to form complexes that can amplify the original signal and propagate it to the multitude of response pathways necessary for genome stability.

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