Regulation of protein synthesis is increasingly being recognized as an important determinant of cell proliferation and senescence. In particular, recent evidence indicates that eukaryotic translation initiation factor 5A (eIF-A) plays a pivotal role in this determination. Separate isoforms of eIF-5A appear to facilitate the translation of mRNAs required for cell division and cell death. This raises the possibility that eIF-5A isoforms are elements of a biological switch that is in one position in dividing cells and in another position in dying cells. Changes in the position of this putative switch in response to physiological and environmental cues are likely to have a significant impact on plant growth and development.