One of the most important protein complexes involved in maintaining correct RNA levels in eukaryotic cells is the exosome, a complex consisting almost exclusively of exoribonucleolytic proteins. Since the identification of the exosome complex, seven years ago, much progress has been made in
the characterization of its composition, structure and function in a variety of organisms. Although the exosome seems to accumulate in the nucleolus, it has been clearly established that it is also localized in cytoplasm and nucleoplasm. In accordance with its widespread intracellular distribution,
the exosome has been implicated in a variety of RNA processing and degradation processes. Nevertheless, many questions still remain unanswered. What are the factors that regulate the activity of the exosome? How and where is the complex assembled? What are the differences in the composition of the
nuclear and cytoplasmic exosome? What is the detailed structure of exosome subunits? What are the mechanisms by which the exosome is recruited to substrate RNAs? Here, we summarize the current knowledge on the composition and architecture of this complex, explain its role in both the production and
degradation of various types of RNA molecules and discuss the implications of recent research developments that shed some light on the questions above and the mechanisms that are controlling the exosome.