A central question in cell and developmental biology is how the information encoded in the genome is differentially interpreted to generate a diverse array of cell types. A growing body of research on posttranscriptional gene regulation is revealing that both global protein synthesis rates and the translation of specific mRNAs are highly specialized in different cell types. How this exquisite translational regulation is achieved is the focus of this review. Two levels of regulation are discussed: the translation machinery and -acting elements within mRNAs. Recent evidence shows that the ribosome itself directs how the genome is translated in time and space and reveals surprising functional specificity in individual components of the core translation machinery. We are also just beginning to appreciate the rich regulatory information embedded in the untranslated regions of mRNAs, which direct the selective translation of transcripts. These hidden RNA regulons may interface with a myriad of RNA-binding proteins and specialized translation machinery to provide an additional layer of regulation to how transcripts are spatiotemporally expressed. Understanding this largely unexplored world of translational codes hardwired in the core translation machinery is an exciting new research frontier fundamental to our understanding of gene regulation, organismal development, and evolution.


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