MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a conserved class of small non-coding RNAs that assemble with Argonaute proteins into miRNA-induced silencing complexes (miRISCs) to direct post-transcriptional silencing of complementary mRNA targets. Silencing is accomplished through a combination of translational repression and mRNA destabilization, with the latter contributing to most of the steady-state repression in animal cell cultures. Degradation of the mRNA target is initiated by deadenylation, which is followed by decapping and 5'-to-3' exonucleolytic decay. Recent work has enhanced our understanding of the mechanisms of silencing, making it possible to describe in molecular terms a continuum of direct interactions from miRNA target recognition to mRNA deadenylation, decapping and 5'-to-3' degradation. Furthermore, an intricate interplay between translational repression and mRNA degradation is emerging.