The gene 1 protein of Salmonella bacteriophage P22 is located at the DNA packaging vertex of the mature particle. The protein is incorporated into the procapsid shell during shell assembly and is required for DNA packaging. The unassembled precursor form of the gene 1 protein has been purified from cells infected with mutants blocked in procapsid assembly. The purified 90,000-dalton protein was dimeric or monomeric; upon storage in the cold it formed 20S cyclic dodecamers. Computer filtering of negatively stained electron micrographs revealed 12 arms and knobs projecting from a central ring, with a 30-A channel at the center. Similar dodecameric rings were released from disrupted procapsid shells. These results indicate that the gene 1 protein is organized as a cyclic dodecamer within the procapsid shell and serves as the portal through which P22 DNA is threaded during DNA packaging. The presence of a 12-fold ring located at a 5-fold portal vertex appears to be a conserved structural theme of the DNA packaging apparatus of double-stranded DNA phages.