T4 gene 2 mutants have a pleiotropic phenotype: degradation of injected phage DNA by exonuclease V (ExoV) in the recBCD+ host cell cytoplasm and a low burst size due, at least in part, to a decreased ability for head-to-tail (H-T) joining. The more N terminal the mutation, the more pronounced is the H-T joining defect. We have overexpressed and purified the recombinant gene 2 product (rgp2) to homogeneity in order to test its role in H-T joining, during in vitro reconstitution. When we mix extracts of heads from a gp2+ phage infection (H+) with tails from a gp2+ or gp2− phage infection (T+ or T−), the H-T joining is fast and all of the reconstituted phage grow equally well on cells with or without ExoV activity. When heads from gene 2 amber mutants (H−) are used, addition of rgp2 is required for H-T joining. In this case, H-T joining is slow and only about 10% of the reconstituted phage can form plaques on ExoV+ cells. When extracts of heads with different gene 2 amber mutations are mixed with extracts of tails (with a gene 2 amber mutation) in the presence of rgp2, we find that the size of the gp2 amber peptide of the head extract is inversely related to the fraction of reconstituted phage with a 2+ phenotype. We conclude that free rgp2 is biologically active and has a direct role in H-T joining but that the process is different from H-T joining promoted by natural gp2 that is incorporated into the head in vivo. Furthermore, it seems that gp2 has a domain which binds it to the head. Thus, the presence of the longer gp2am mutants (with this domain) inhibits their replacement by full-length rgp2.