Ribosomal proteins have remained highly conserved during evolution presumably reflecting often critical functions in ribosome biogenesis or mature ribosome function. In addition, several ribosomal proteins possess distinct extra-ribosomal functions in apoptosis, DNA repair and transcription. An increasing number of ribosomal proteins have been shown to modulate the trans-activation function of important regulatory proteins such as NF-kappaB, p53, c-Myc and nuclear receptors. Furthermore, a subset of ribosomal proteins can bind directly to untranslated regions of mRNA resulting in transcript-specific translational control outside of the ribosome itself. Collectively, these findings suggest that ribosomal proteins may have a wider functional repertoire within the cell than previously thought. The future challenge is to identify and validate these novel functions in the background of an often essential primary function in ribosome biogenesis and cell growth.