Glycoprotein IV (gIV) of bovine herpesvirus 1 (BHV-1), a homolog of herpes simplex virus glycoprotein D, represents a major component of the viral envelope and a dominant immunogen. To analyze the functional role of gIV during BHV-1 replication, cell line BUIV3-7, which constitutively expresses gIV, was constructed and used for the isolation of gIV- BHV-1 mutant 80-221, in which the gIV gene was replaced by a lacZ expression cassette. On complementing gIV-expressing cells, the gIV- BHV-1 replicated normally but was unable to form plaques and infectious progeny on noncomplementing cells. Further analysis showed that gIV is essential for BHV-1 entry into target cells, whereas viral gene expression, DNA replication, and envelopment appear unchanged in both noncomplementing and complementing cells infected with phenotypically complemented gIV- BHV-1. The block in entry could be overcome by polyethylene glycol-induced membrane fusion. After passaging of gIV- BHV-1 on complementing cells, a rescued variant, BHV-1res, was isolated and shown to underexpress gIV in comparison with its wild-type parent. Comparison of the penetration kinetics of BHV-1 wild type, phenotypically complemented gIV- BHV-1, and BHV-1res indicated that penetration efficiency correlated with the amount of gIV present in virus particles. In conclusion, we show that gIV of BHV-1 is an essential component of the virion involved in virus entry and that the amount of gIV in the viral envelope modulates the penetration efficiency of the virus.