In pseudorabies virus (PrV), an open reading frame that partially overlaps the gene for the essential glycoprotein gII has been shown to encode a protein homologous to the ICP18.5 polypeptide of herpes simplex virus type 1 (N. Pederson and L. Enquist, Nucleic Acids Res. t7:3597, 1989). To study the function of this protein during the viral replicative cycle, a PrV mutant which carries a beta-galactosidase expression cassette interrupting the ICP18.5(PrV) gene was constructed. This mutant could be propagated only on cell lines that were able to provide ICP18.5(PrV) in trans after transformation with a corresponding genomic PrV DNA fragment. Detailed analysis showed that inactivation of the ICP18.5(PrV) gene did not impair infection of noncomplementing cells, nor did it impair early or late gene expression, as shown by immunoprecipitation of glycoproteins gII, gIII, and gp50. Surface localization of glycoproteins as demonstrated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting analyses was also not affected. Southern blot hybridizations, however, showed that cleavage of replicative concatemeric viral DNA did not occur in noncomplementing cells infected by the ICP18.5 mutant PrV. In addition, electron microscopic analysis revealed an accumulation of empty capsids in the nucleus of mutant-infected noncomplementing cells. We conclude that the ICP18.5(PrV) protein is necessary for viral replication and plays an essential role in the process of mature capsid formation.