The structure and function of the equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1) UL34 homologous protein were characterized. A UL34 protein-specific antiserum reacted with an M(r)28,000 protein that could not be detected in purified extracellular virions. Confocal laser scanning microscopy demonstrated that UL34 reactivity mainly concentrated at the nuclear rim, which changed into a punctuate and filamentous pattern at late times after infection. These changes in UL34 distribution were especially prominent when analyzing the distribution of a GFP-UL34 fusion protein. A UL34-negative EHV-1 was generated by mutagenesis of a recently established BAC clone of EHV-1 strain RacH (pRacH). Release of extracellular infectious virus was severely impaired after infection of Rk13 cells with HDelta34. Electron microscopy revealed a virtual absence of virus particles in the cytoplasm of infected cells, whereas nucleocapsid formation and maturation within the nucleus appeared unaffected. A UL34-GFP fusion protein with GFP linked to the C-terminus of UL34 was able to complement for the UL34 deletion in trans, while a GFP-UL34-fusion protein with GFP linked to the N-terminus of UL34 was able to only partially restore virus growth. It was concluded that the EHV-1 UL34 product is essential for an early step in virus egress, i.e., release of capsids from infected-cell nuclei.