Infections are thought to be important in the pathogenesis of many heart diseases. Coxsackievirus B3 (CVB3) has been linked to chronic dilated cardiomyopathy, a common cause of progressive heart disease, heart failure and sudden death. We show here that the sarcoma (Src) family kinase Lck (p56lck) is required for efficient CVB3 replication in T-cell lines and for viral replication and persistence in vivo. Whereas infection of wild-type mice with human pathogenic CVB3 caused acute and very severe myocarditis, meningitis, hepatitis, pancreatitis and dilated cardiomyopathy, mice lacking the p56lck gene were completely protected from CVB3-induced acute pathogenicity and chronic heart disease. These data identify a previously unknown function of Src family kinases and indicate that p56lck is the essential host factor that controls the replication and pathogenicity of CVB3.