Group B coxsackieviruses are responsible for chronic cardiac infections. However, the molecular mechanisms by which the virus can persist in the human heart long after the signs of acute myocarditis have abated are still not completely understood. Recently, coxsackievirus B3 strains with 5'-terminal deletions in genomic RNAs were isolated from a patient suffering from idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy, suggesting that such mutant viruses may be the forms responsible for persistent infection. These deletions lacked portions of 5' stem-loop I, which is an RNA secondary structure required for viral RNA replication. In this study, we assessed the consequences of the genomic deletions observed in vivo for coxsackievirus B3 biology. Using cell extracts from HeLa cells, as well as transfection of luciferase replicons in two types of cardiomyocytes, we demonstrated that coxsackievirus RNAs harboring 5' deletions ranging from 7 to 49 nucleotides in length can be translated nearly as efficiently as those of wild-type virus. However, these 5' deletions greatly reduced the synthesis of viral RNA in vitro, which was detected only for the 7- and 21-nucleotide deletions. Since 5' stem-loop I RNA forms a ribonucleoprotein complex with cellular and viral proteins involved in viral RNA replication, we investigated the binding of the host cell protein PCBP2, as well as viral protein 3CDpro, to deleted positive-strand RNAs corresponding to the 5' end. We found that binding of these proteins was conserved but that ribonucleoprotein complex formation required higher PCBP2 and 3CDpro concentrations, depending on the size of the deletion. Overall, this study confirmed the characteristics of persistent CVB3 infection observed in heart tissues and provided a possible explanation for the low level of RNA replication observed for the 5'-deleted viral genomes-a less stable ribonucleoprotein complex formed with proteins involved in viral RNA replication.IMPORTANCE Dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common indication for heart transplantation worldwide, and coxsackie B viruses are detected in about one-third of idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathies. Terminal deletions at the 5' end of the viral genome involving an RNA secondary structure required for RNA replication have been recently reported as a possible mechanism of virus persistence in the human heart. These mutations are likely to disrupt the correct folding of an RNA secondary structure required for viral RNA replication. In this report, we demonstrate that transfected RNAs harboring 5'-terminal sequence deletions are able to direct the synthesis of viral proteins, but not genomic RNAs, in human and murine cardiomyocytes. Moreover, we show that the binding of cellular and viral replication factors to viral RNA is conserved despite genomic deletions but that the impaired RNA synthesis associated with terminally deleted viruses could be due to destabilization of the ribonucleoprotein complexes formed.