In this review we explore the regulation of mRNA cap formation and its impact on mammalian cells. The mRNA cap is a highly methylated modification of the 5' end of RNA pol II-transcribed RNA. It protects RNA from degradation, recruits complexes involved in RNA processing, export and translation initiation, and marks cellular mRNA as "self" to avoid recognition by the innate immune system. The mRNA cap can be viewed as a unique mark which selects RNA pol II transcripts for specific processing and translation. Over recent years, examples of regulation of mRNA cap formation have emerged, induced by oncogenes, developmental pathways and during the cell cycle. These signalling pathways regulate the rate and extent of mRNA cap formation, resulting in changes in gene expression, cell physiology and cell function.