The herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) α protein ICP27 regulates the transition between the delayed-early and late phases of the viral infection. Previous genetic analyses have suggested that the important functional domains of ICP27 map to its carboxyl-terminal half. One striking feature of the primary sequence of ICP27, however, is an extremely acidic region near its amino terminus. To determine whether this region is required for ICP27 function, we deleted the sequences in the ICP27 gene which encode it (codons 12 through 63). In transient expression assays, the deletion mutant was unable to efficiently repress the expression of a cotransfected reporter gene or to efficiently complement the growth of d27-1, an HSV-1 ICP27 null mutant. These results suggested that the acidic region of ICP27 is involved in a regulatory function required for lytic growth. To test this possibility further, we introduced the mutant allele into the HSV-1 genome by marker transfer. Two independently derived isolates of the mutant virus, designated d1-2a and d1-2b, were recovered and analyzed. Both isolates were defective for growth in Vero cells, exhibiting a 100-fold reduction in virus yield compared with the wild-type infection. Vero cells infected with the d1-2 isolates showed a three- to eightfold reduction in viral DNA replication, a moderate reduction in the expression of viral γ genes, and a delay in the repression of β genes. The phenotype of the d1-2 isolates differs substantially from the phenotypes of previously isolated ICP27 mutants, which show much more severe defects in viral gene expression. Our results demonstrate that the amino-terminal half of ICP27 participates in its regulatory activities in both infected and transfected cells.