Assembly of retrovirus-like particles only requires the expression of the Gag polyprotein precursor. We have exploited this in the development of a model system for studying the virus particle assembly pathway for bovine leukemia virus (BLV). BLV is closely related to the human T-cell leukemia viruses (HTLVs), and all are members of the Deltaretrovirus genus of the Retroviridae family. Overexpression of a BLV Gag polyprotein containing a carboxy-terminal influenza virus hemagglutinin (HA) epitope tag in mammalian cells led to the robust production of virus-like particles (VLPs). Site-directed mutations were introduced into HA-tagged Gag to test the usefulness of this model system for studying certain aspects of the virus assembly pathway. First, mutations that disrupted the amino-terminal glycine residue that is important for Gag myristylation led to a drastic reduction in VLP production. Predictably, the nature of the VLP production defect was correlated to Gag membrane localization. Second, mutation of the PPPY motif (located in the MA domain) greatly reduced VLP production in the absence of the viral protease. This reduction in VLP production was more severe in the presence of an active viral protease. Examination of particles by electron microscopy revealed an abundance of particles that began to pinch off from the plasma membrane but were not completely released from the cell surface, indicating that the PPPY motif functions as a late domain (L domain).