A new strategy for combinatorial mutagenesis was developed and applied to residues 40 through 60 of LamB protein (maltoporin), with the aim of identifying amino acids important for LamB structure and function. The strategy involved a template containing a stop codon in the target sequence and a pool of random degenerate oligonucleotides covering the region. In vitro mutagenesis followed by selection for function (Dex+, ability to utilize dextrins) corrected the nonsense mutation and simultaneously forced incorporation of a random mutation(s) within the region. The relative importance of each residue within the target was indicated by the frequency and nature of neutral and deleterious mutations recovered at each position. Residues 41 through 43 in LamB accepted few neutral substitutions, whereas residues 55 through 57 were highly flexible in this regard. Consistent with this finding was that the majority of defective mutants were altered at residues 41 to 43. Characterization of these mutants indicated that the nature of residues 41 to 43 influenced the amount of stable protein in the outer membrane. These results, as well as the conserved nature of this stretch of residues among outer membrane proteins, suggest that residues 41 to 43 of LamB play an important role in the process of outer membrane localization.