Proteins regulate gene expression by controlling mRNA biogenesis, localization, translation and decay. Identifying the composition, diversity and function of mRNA-protein complexes (mRNPs) is essential to understanding these processes. In a global survey of Saccharomyces cerevisiae mRNA-binding proteins, we identified 120 proteins that cross-link to mRNA, including 66 new mRNA-binding proteins. These include kinases, RNA-modification enzymes, metabolic enzymes and tRNA- and rRNA-metabolism factors. These proteins show dynamic subcellular localization during stress, including assembly into stress granules and processing bodies (P bodies). Cross-linking and immunoprecipitation (CLIP) analyses of the P-body components Pat1, Lsm1, Dhh1 and Sbp1 identified sites of interaction on specific mRNAs, revealing positional binding preferences and co-assembly preferences. When taken together, this work defines the major yeast mRNP proteins, reveals widespread changes in their subcellular location during stress and begins to define assembly rules for P-body mRNPs.