The nuclear lamina is an important structural determinant for the nuclear envelope as a whole, attaching chromatin domains to the nuclear periphery and localizing some nuclear envelope proteins. The major components of the lamina are the A-type and B-type lamins, which are members of the intermediate filament protein family. Whereas the expression of A-type lamins is developmentally regulated, B-type lamins, as a class, are found in all cells. The association of B-type lamins with many aspects of nuclear function has led to the view that these are essential proteins, and there is growing evidence suggesting that they regulate cellular senescence. However, B-type lamins are dispensable in certain cell types in vivo, and neither A-type nor B-type lamins may be required in early embryos or embryonic stem cells. The picture that is beginning to emerge is of a complex network of interactions at the nuclear periphery that may be defined by cell- and tissue-specific functions.