We have examined the requirements for the initiation factors (eIFs) eIF4A and eIF2 to translate Sindbis virus (SV) subgenomic mRNA (sgmRNA) in the natural hosts of SV: vertebrate and arthropod cells. Notably, this viral mRNA does not utilize eIF4A in SV-infected mammalian cells. However, eIF4A is required to translate this mRNA in transfected cells. Therefore, SV sgmRNA exhibits a dual mechanism for translation with respect to the use of eIF4A. Interestingly, SV genomic mRNA requires eIF4A for translation during the early phase of infection. In sharp contrast to what is observed in mammalian cells, active eIF2 is necessary to translate SV sgmRNA in mosquito cells. However, eIF4A is not necessary for SV sgmRNA translation in this cell line. In the SV sgmRNA coding region, proximal to the initiation codon is a hairpin structure that confers eIF2 independence only in mammalian cells infected by SV. Strikingly, this structure does not provide independence for eIF4A neither in mammalian nor in mosquito cells. These findings provide the first evidence of different eIF requirements for translation of SV sgmRNA in vertebrate and invertebrate cells. These observations can help to understand the interaction of SV with its host cells.