Scaffolding proteins act as chaperones for the assembly of numerous viruses, including most double-stranded DNA bacteriophages. In bacteriophage P2, an internal scaffolding protein, gpO, is required for the assembly of correctly formed viral capsids. Bacteriophage P4 is a satellite phage that has acquired the ability to take control of the P2 genome and use the P2 capsid protein gpN to assemble a capsid that is smaller than the normal P2 capsid. This size determination is dependent on the P4 external scaffolding protein Sid. Although Sid is sufficient to form morphologically correct P4-size capsids, the P2 internal scaffolding protein gpO is required for the formation of viable capsids of both P2 and P4. In most bacteriophages, the scaffolding protein is either proteolytically degraded or exits intact from the capsid after assembly. In the P2/P4 system, however, gpO is cleaved to an N-terminal fragment, O*, that remains inside the mature capsid after DNA packaging. We previously showed that gpO exhibits autoproteolytic activity, which is abolished by removal of the first 25 amino acids. Co-expression of gpN with this N-terminally truncated version of gpO leads to the production of immature P2 procapsid shells. Here, we use protein analysis and mass spectroscopy to show that P2 and P4 virions as well as procapsids isolated from viral infections contain O* and that cleavage occurs between residues 141 and 142 of gpO. By co-expression of gpN with truncated gpO proteins, we show that O* binds to gpN and retains the proteolytic activity of gpO and that the C-terminal 90 residues of gpO (residues 195-284) are sufficient to promote the formation of P2-size procapsids. Using mass spectrometry, we have also identified the head completion protein gpL in the virions. © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.