CK2 is an extremely conserved pleiotropic protein kinase with a growing list of more than 300 substrates, the majority of which are proteins implicated in signal transduction, gene expression and other nuclear functions. The CK2 phosphoacceptor sites are specified by multiple acidic residues, with the one at position +3 relative to the target residue being of crucial relevance. The CK2 holoenzyme is composed of two catalytic subunits (alphaalpha, alpha'alpha' or alphaalpha'), which are essential for cell viability, and a dimer of two non-catalytic beta subunits, whose precise function is still poorly understood. Although the beta subunits deeply affect many properties of CK2, both the isolated catalytic subunits and the holoenzyme are constitutively active, which is probably responsible for the oncogenic potential of CK2. Given the structure of the holoenzyme, the beta subunits could undergo reversible dissociation under physiological conditions and play a role as anchoring elements and/or as a docking platform for protein substrates and effectors. These unusual features are likely to be instrumental in the involvement of CK2 in a number of key biological functions, notably RNA synthesis, Wnt signaling, ubiquitination and cell survival.