The cytoplasmic events that control mammalian gene expression, primarily mRNA stability and translation, potently influence the cellular response to internal and external signals. The ubiquitous RNA-binding protein (RBP) HuR is one of the best-studied regulators of cytoplasmic mRNA fate. Through its post-transcriptional influence on specific target mRNAs, HuR can alter the cellular response to proliferative, stress, apoptotic, differentiation, senescence, inflammatory and immune stimuli. In light of its central role in important cellular functions, HuR's role in diseases in which these responses are aberrant is increasingly appreciated. Here, we review the mechanisms that control HuR function, its influence on target mRNAs, and how impairment in HuR-governed gene expression programs impact upon different disease processes. We focus on HuR's well-recognized implication in cancer and chronic inflammation, and discuss emerging studies linking HuR to cardiovascular, neurological, and muscular pathologies. We also discuss the progress, potential, and challenges of targeting HuR therapeutically.