Analysis of the DNA sequence of the late leader region of simian virus 40 indicates that it might encode a 61-amino acid, highly basic protein, LP-1. Mutants deleted in this region are viable, but they produce infectious progeny more slowly than wild-type virus in established monkey cells. On the basis of the rates of appearance and the sizes of mixed plaques formed after cotransfections with pairs of mutants, we found that mutants defective in the synthesis of LP-1 complementation was also observed in infections with virions and was bidirectional. Therefore, these mutants define a new complementation group, group G. In addition, a protein of the appropriate molecular weight for LP-1 (approximately 8 X 10(3) ) was synthesized by wild-type virus-infected cells but not by mock-infected or group G gene mutant-infected cells. This protein, whose identity has been established definitively by Jay et al. (Nature (London) 291:346-349, 1981), was synthesized at a high rate at late times after infection, was present predominantly in the cytoplasmic fraction of cells, possessed a fairly short half-life, and was absent from mature virions. Once formed, virions of group G gene mutants behaved biologically and physically like virions of wild-type virus. On the basis of these findings and other known properties of LP-1 and mutants defective in LP-1 synthesis, we hypothesize that LP-1 functions to facilitate virion assembly, possibly by serving as a nonreusable scaffolding protein.