Previous experimental results have suggested that poliovirus and encephalomyocarditis (EMC) virus employ very different mechanisms for shutting off host protein synthesis. However, this conclusion is suspect, inasmuch as different cell types were used for the two viruses; hence the apparent mechanistic differences might be specific for cell type and not virus type. To test this possibility we compared shutoff mechanisms in poliovirus- and EMC virus-infected HeLa cells. Striking differences were seen: poliovirus-induced shutoff was much more rapid and extensive than that induced by EMC virus; relative translation rates of certain host proteins were inhibited to different extents by the two viruses; initiation factors prepared from poliovirus-infected cells were specifically defective for translation of capped mRNA's in vitro, whereas those from EMC virus-infected cells were not. These results indicate that EMC virus and poliovirus employ different mechanisms for the shutoff of HeLa cell protein synthesis. This conclusion is consistent with much earlier work and indicates that many differences previously reported are specific to virus type.