The 2A protein appears to be diverse among picornaviruses, in contrast to the other non-structural proteins, which have homologous structures and functions. In enteroviruses and rhinoviruses, 2A is a trypsin-like protease involved in protein processing and in shut-off of host-cell macromolecular synthesis. The aphthovirus and cardiovirus 2A is associated with an unusual processing event at the 2A/2B junction. It is shown here that the 2A protein of several diverse picornaviruses, the human parechoviruses, Aichi virus and avian encephalomyelitis virus, possess previously unrecognized conserved motifs and are likely to have a common function. Moreover, these motifs, a conserved histidine and flanking amino acids, an asparagine-cysteine dipeptide and a putative transmembrane domain, are characteristic of a family of cellular proteins, at least two of which are involved in the control of cell growth. These observations have important implications for an understanding of picornavirus genome structure and evolution, as well as pointing to possible functions of 2A in these viruses.