The øX174 DNA pilot protein H forms an oligomeric DNA-translocating tube during penetration. However, monomers are incorporated into 12 pentameric assembly intermediates, which become the capsid's icosahedral vertices. The protein's N terminus, a predicted transmembrane helix, is not represented in the crystal structure. To investigate its functions, a series of absolute and conditional lethal mutations were generated. The absolute lethal proteins, a deletion and a triple substitution, were efficiently incorporated into virus-like particles lacking infectivity. The conditional lethal mutants, bearing cold-sensitive (cs) and temperature-sensitive (ts) point mutations, were more amenable to further analyses. Viable particles containing the mutant protein can be generated at the permissive temperature and subsequently analyzed at the restrictive temperature.