Despite their widespread roles as regulators of gene expression, important questions remain about target regulation by microRNAs. Animal microRNAs were originally thought to repress target translation, with little or no influence on mRNA abundance, whereas the reverse was thought to be true in plants. Now, however, it is clear that microRNAs can induce mRNA degradation in animals and, conversely, translational repression in plants. Recent studies have made important advances in elucidating the relative contributions of these two different modes of target regulation by microRNAs. They have also shed light on the specific mechanisms of target silencing, which, although it differs fundamentally between plants and animals, shares some common features between the two kingdoms.