Biological processes often require that a single gene product participate in multiple types of molecular interactions. Viruses with quasiequivalent capsids provide an excellent paradigm for studying such phenomena because identical protein subunits are found in different structural environments. Differences in subunit joints may be controlled by protein segments, duplex or single-stranded RNA, metal ions, or some combination of these. Each of the virus groups examined display a distinctive mechanism for switching interface interactions, illustrating the magnitude of options that are likely to be found in other biological systems. In addition to determining capsid morphology, assembly controls the timing of autocatalytic maturation cleavage of the viral subunits that is required for infectivity in picorna-, noda-, and tetraviruses. The mechanism of assembly-dependent cleavage is conserved in noda- and tetraviruses, although the quaternary structures of the capsids are different as are the molecular switches that control subunit interfaces. The function of the cleavage in picorna-, noda-, and tetraviruses is probably to release polypeptides that participate in membrane translocation of RNA.