Viruses carry nucleic acids between and within host cells. Invariably, virus attachment to host cells leads to activation of cell signalling. These so-called forward signals emerge from interactions with cell surface receptors or cytosolic proteins and elicit profound responses in the cells, for example induction of growth or innate immunity responses. They can enhance or suppress infection. In addition, viruses receive signals from the cell. These reverse signals can impact on the structure of the virus leading to genome uncoating. They can enhance infection or inactivate virus, for example by facilitating degradation. Here we discuss the nature and mechanisms by which forward and reverse signals emerge and affect the outcome of human adenovirus infections. We describe how human adenoviruses use cell surface receptors for forward signalling to activate cell growth, intracellular transport or innate immune response. We also discuss how adenoviruses use acto-myosin, integrins or microtubule-based kinesin motors for reverse signalling to facilitate their stepwise uncoating programme.