In this issue, we are pleased to present a collection of articles that focus on the endosomal sorting complex required for transport (ESCRT) machinery. These complexes were initially identified on the basis of their important function in the sorting of ubiquitylated receptors into multivesicular bodies (MVBs). Since this discovery, cell biologists have made significant progress in understanding the structure and function of the ESCRT machinery at the molecular level, and it is now clear that its function extends to many other topologically equivalent cellular processes that involve a membrane-scission event. This issue contains three articles that bring these new ideas together: on page 2163, James Hurley and colleagues provide a schematic overview in their Cell Science at a Glance article, and examine the molecular interactions of the ESCRT machinery that enable its membrane-scission activity. In a Commentary on page 2167, Bethan McDonald and Juan Martin-Serrano discuss how the ESCRT machinery is involved in the diverse processes of MVB formation, cytokinesis and viral budding. Finally, Tor Erik Rusten and Harald Stenmark discuss the involvement of the ESCRT machinery in autophagy in an Opinion article on page 2179.