Recent results indicate that many untranslating mRNAs in somatic eukaryotic cells assemble into related mRNPs that accumulate in specific cytoplasmic foci referred to as P bodies. Transcripts associated with P body components can either be degraded or return to translation. Moreover, P bodies are also biochemically and functionally related to some maternal and neuronal mRNA granules. This suggests an emerging model of cytoplasmic mRNA function in which the rates of translation and degradation of mRNAs are influenced by a dynamic equilibrium between polysomes and the mRNPs seen in P bodies. Moreover, some mRNA-specific regulatory factors, including miRNAs and RISC, appear to repress translation and promote decay by recruiting P body components to individual mRNAs.