Some viral and cellular messages use an alternative mechanism to initiate protein synthesis that involves internal recruitment of the ribosome to an internal ribosome entry site (IRES). The Dicistroviridae intergenic regions (IGR) have been studied as model IRESs to understand the mechanism of IRES-mediated translation. In this study, the in vivo activity of IGR IRESs were compared. Our analysis demonstrates that Class I and II IGR IRESs have comparable translation efficiency in yeast and that Class II is significantly more active in mammalian cells. Furthermore, while Class II IGR IRES activity was enhanced in yeast grown at a higher temperature, temperature did not affect IGR IRES activity in mammalian cells. This suggests that Class II IRESs may not function optimally with yeast ribosomes. Examination of chimeric IGR IRESs, established that the IRES strength and temperature sensitivity are mediated by the ribosome binding domain. In addition, the sequence of the first translated codon is also an important determinant of IRES activity. Our findings provide us with a comprehensive overview of IGR IRES activities and allow us to begin to understand the differences between Classes I and II IGR IRESs. © 2011 The Author(s).