Although viruses require cellular functions to replicate, their absolute dependence upon the host translation machinery to produce polypeptides indispensable for their reproduction is most conspicuous. Despite their incredible diversity, the mRNAs produced by all viruses must engage cellular ribosomes. This has proven to be anything but a passive process and has revealed a remarkable array of tactics for rapidly subverting control over and dominating cellular regulatory pathways that influence translation initiation, elongation, and termination. Besides enforcing viral mRNA translation, these processes profoundly impact host cell-intrinsic immune defenses at the ready to deny foreign mRNA access to ribosomes and block protein synthesis. Finally, genome size constraints have driven the evolution of resourceful strategies for maximizing viral coding capacity. Here, we review the amazing strategies that work to regulate translation in virus-infected cells, highlighting both virus-specific tactics and the tremendous insight they provide into fundamental translational control mechanisms in health and disease.


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