The evolutionarily conserved checkpoint protein kinase, TOR (target of rapamycin), has emerged as a major effector of cell growth and proliferation via the regulation of protein synthesis. Work in the last decade clearly demonstrates that TOR controls protein synthesis through a stunning number of downstream targets. Some of the targets are phosphorylated directly by TOR, but many are phosphorylated indirectly. In this review, we summarize some recent developments in this fast-evolving field. We describe both the upstream components of the signaling pathway(s) that activates mammalian TOR (mTOR) and the downstream targets that affect protein synthesis. We also summarize the roles of mTOR in the control of cell growth and proliferation, as well as its relevance to cancer and synaptic plasticity.