Cardioviruses are single-stranded RNA viruses of the family Picornaviridae. In addition to being the first example of internal ribosome entry site utilization, cardioviruses also employ a series of alternative translation strategies, such as Stop-Go translation and programmed ribosome frameshifting. Here, we focus on cardiovirus 2A protein, which is not only a primary virulence factor, but also exerts crucial regulatory functions during translation, including activation of viral ribosome frameshifting and inhibition of host cap-dependent translation. Only recently, biochemical and structural studies have allowed us to close the gaps in our knowledge of how cardiovirus 2A is able to act in diverse translation-related processes as a novel RNA-binding protein. This review will summarize these findings, which ultimately may lead to the discovery of other RNA-mediated gene expression strategies across a broad range of RNA viruses.

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