In addition to its many other functions, the plasma membrane of eukaryotic cells serves as a barrier against invading parasites and viruses. It is not permeable to ions and to low molecular weight solutes, let alone to proteins and polynucleotides. Yet it is clear that viruses are capable of transferring their genome and accessory proteins into the cytosol or into the nucleus, and thus infect the cell. While the detailed mechanisms remain unclear for most animal viruses, a general theme is apparent like other stages in the replication cycle; their entry depends on the activities of the host cell. In order to take up nutrients, to communicate with other cells, to control the intracellular ion balance, and to secrete substances, cells have a variety of mechanisms for bypassing and modifying the barrier properties imposed by their plasma membrane. It is these mechanisms, and the molecules involved in them, that viruses exploit.