The herpes simplex virus type 1 temperature-sensitive (ts) DNA-positive mutant ts1203 has been characterized. The ts lesion in ts1203 was located by marker rescue within the coding region of gene UL28. Nuclei of cells infected with ts1203 at the non-permissive temperature (NPT) contained large numbers of capsids with a uniform morphology. These capsids lacked DNA but had a defined internal structure. No full capsids were detected at the NPT, suggesting that ts1203 was unable to package viral DNA. In this respect ts1203 is similar to ts1201 which has a defect in gene UL26. The capsids made by ts1203 at the NPT, however, contained a more compact internal structure than those of ts1201. In addition, ts1203 capsids were dispersed throughout the nucleus whereas ts1201 capsids were frequently found clustered together in large arrays. Southern blot and sedimentation analyses of viral DNA confirmed that ts1203 had an encapsidation defect and showed that most of the mutant DNA at the NPT was of a high Mr. The effect of the ts1203 mutation could not be reversed in the absence of de novo protein synthesis by transferring mutant-infected cells from the NPT to the permissive temperature.