Abstract The essential replication protein encoded by gene O of bacteriophage λ (O-λ) is one of the major polypeptides produced in vitro in a DNA-dependent protein synthesizing system with λ DNA as template (Yates et al., 1977). We have used this system to identify the proteins encoded by lambdoid phages φ80 and 82 and equivalent in function to O-λ. The O protein of each phage type differs slightly in polypeptide molecular weight. Hybrid λ-φ80 and λ-82 phages derived by recombination within gene O direct synthesis of hybrid O proteins with the aminoterminal segment characteristic of one parent, and the carboxyl-terminal segment characteristic of the other. Differences in structure among O-λ, O-80 and O-λ82 segregate together with specificity determinants for interactions between the O protein and the control site ori, and between the O protein and the product of replication gene P. The coding region for the O protein includes ori.