The incorporation of the DNA packaging connector complex during lambdoid phage assembly in vivo is strictly controlled-one and only one of the twelve identical icosahedral vertices is differentiated by the inclusion of a portal or connector dodecamer. Proposed control mechanisms include obligate nucleation from a connector containing complex, addition of the connector as the final step during assembly, and a connector-mediated increase in the growth rate. The inability to recapitulate connector incorporation in vitro has made it difficult to obtain direct biochemical evidence in support of one model over another. Here we report the development an in vitro assembly system for the well characterized dsDNA phage Phi29 which results in the co-assembly of connector with capsid and scaffolding proteins to form procapsid-like particles (PLPs). Immuno-electron microscopy demonstrates the specific incorporation of connector vertex in PLPs. The connector protein increases both the yield and the rate of capsid assembly suggesting that the incorporation of the connector in Phi29 likely promotes nucleation of assembly. © 2009 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.