Picornaviruses are associated with acute and chronic diseases. The clinical manifestations of infections are often mild, but infections may also lead to respiratory symptoms, gastroenteritis, myocarditis, meningitis, hepatitis, and poliomyelitis, with serious impacts on human health and economic losses in animal husbandry. Thus far, research on picornaviruses has mainly focused on structural proteins such as VP1, whereas the non-structural protein 2B, which plays vital roles in the life cycle of the viruses and exhibits a viroporin or viroporin-like activity, has been overlooked. Viroporins are viral proteins containing at least one amphipathic α-helical structure, which oligomerizes to form transmembrane hydrophilic pores. In this review, we mainly summarize recent research data on the viroporin or viroporin-like activity of 2B proteins, which affects the biological function of the membrane, regulates cell death, and affects the host immune response. Considering these mechanisms, the potential application of the 2B protein as a candidate target for antiviral drug development is discussed, along with research challenges and prospects toward realizing a novel treatment strategy for picornavirus infections.
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