The RNA degradosome of Escherichia coli is a multiprotein complex involved in the degradation of mRNA. The principal components are RNase E, PNPase, RhlB, and enolase. RNase E is a large multidomain protein with an N-terminal catalytic region and a C-terminal noncatalytic region that is mostly natively unstructured protein. The noncatalytic region contains sites for binding RNA and for protein-protein interactions with other components of the RNA degradosome. Several recent studies suggest that there are alternative forms of the RNA degradosome depending on growth conditions or other factors. These alternative forms appear to modulate RNase E activity in the degradation of mRNA. RNA degradosome-like complexes appear to be conserved throughout the Proteobacteria, but there is a surprising variability in composition that might contribute to the adaptation of these bacteria to the enormously wide variety of niches in which they live.