Most eukaryotic mRNAs are subject to considerable post-transcriptional modification, including capping, splicing, and polyadenylation. The process of polyadenylation adds a 3' poly(A) tail and provides the mRNA with a binding site for a major class of regulatory factors, the poly(A)-binding proteins (PABPs). These highly conserved polypeptides are found only in eukaryotes; single-celled eukaryotes each have a single PABP, whereas humans have five and Arabidopis has eight. They typically bind poly(A) using one or more RNA-recognition motifs, globular domains common to numerous other eukaryotic RNA-binding proteins. Although they lack catalytic activity, PABPs have several roles in mediating gene expression. Nuclear PABPs are necessary for the synthesis of the poly(A) tail, regulating its ultimate length and stimulating maturation of the mRNA. Association with PABP is also a requirement for some mRNAs to be exported from the nucleus. In the cytoplasm, PABPs facilitate the formation of the 'closed loop' structure of the messenger ribonucleoprotein particle that is crucial for additional PABP activities that promote translation initiation and termination, recycling of ribosomes, and stability of the mRNA. Collectively, these sequential nuclear and cytoplasmic contributions comprise a cycle in which PABPs and the poly(A) tail first create and then eliminate a network of cis- acting interactions that control mRNA function.