The process of mRNA turnover is a critical component of the regulation of gene expression. In the past few years a discrete set of pathways for the degradation of polyadenylated mRNAs in eukaryotic cells have been described. A major pathway of mRNA degradation in yeast occurs by deadenylation of the mRNA, which leads to a decapping reaction, thereby exposing the mRNA to rapid 5' to 3' exonucleolytic degradation. A critical step in this pathway is decapping, since it effectively terminates the existence of the mRNA and is the site of numerous control inputs. In this review, we discuss the properties of the decapping enzyme and how its activity is regulated to give rise to differential mRNA turnover. A key point is that decapping appears to be controlled by access of the enzyme to the cap structure in a competition with the translation initiation complex. Strikingly, several proteins required for mRNA decapping show interactions with the translation machinery and suggest possible mechanisms for the triggering of mRNA decapping.