Inactivation of the retinoblastoma tumour suppressor protein (pRb) is a hallmark of most human cancers. Accordingly, pRb is serving as a paradigm in our quest to understand tumour suppressor function. The role played by pRb and the related 'pocket proteins', p107 and p130, in regulating cell cycle progression has been extensively studied over the past two decades. The function of pRb in regulating transcriptional programmes in differentiating cells is less well understood. Recently, the use of a variety of different cell, animal and plant model systems has allowed us a first glimpse at some of the molecular mechanisms underlying pRb-mediated transcriptional regulation during differentiation and development.