Initiation of phage phi29 DNA replication starts with the recognition of the origin of replication, located at both ends of the linear DNA, by a heterodimer formed by the phi29 terminal protein (TP) and the phi29 DNA polymerase. The parental TP, covalently linked to the DNA ends, is one of the main components of the replication origin. Here we provide evidence that recognition of the origin is mediated through interactions between the TP of the TP/DNA polymerase heterodimer, called primer TP, and the parental TP. Based on amino acid sequence comparisons, various phi29 TP mutants were generated at conserved amino acid residues from positions 61 to 87. In vitro phi29 DNA amplification analysis revealed that residues Asn80 and Tyr82 are essential for functional interaction between primer and parental TP required for recognition of the origin of replication. Although these mutant TPs can form functional heterodimers with phi29 DNA polymerase that are able to recognize the origin of replication, these heterodimers are not able to recognize an origin containing a mutant TP.