Translation of mRNA is emerging as an important mode of gene regulation in plants. It is frequently controlled at initiation and appears to be regulated by competition for limiting translational components, different requirements for specific factors and cis-acting mRNA elements. Recent studies indicate that interactions between the 5' and 3' ends of the message enhance translation, perhaps by facilitating recruitment of initiation factors or enhancing ribosome recycling. Normal development and environmental stimuli modulate the phosphorylation of components of the mRNA 5'-cap-binding complex, ribosomes and mRNA-binding proteins. These modifications might be responsible for changes in the hierarchy of mRNAs that are in competition for translation.