Proteins destined for either the periplasm or the outer membrane of Escherichia coli are translocated from the cytoplasm by a common mechanism. It is generally assumed that outer membrane proteins, such as LamB (maltoporin or lambda receptor), which are rich in beta-structure, contain additional targeting information that directs proper membrane insertion. During transit to the outer membrane, these proteins may pass, in soluble form, through the periplasm or remain membrane associated and reach their final destination via sites of inner membrane-outer membrane contact (zones of adhesion). We report lamB mutations that slow signal sequence cleavage, delay release of the protein from the inner membrane, and interfere with maltoporin biogenesis. This result is most easily explained by proposing a soluble, periplasmic LamB assembly intermediate. Additionally, we found that such lamB mutations confer several novel phenotypes consistent with an abortive attempt by the cell to target these tethered LamB molecules. These phenotypes may allow isolation of mutants in which the process of outer membrane protein targeting is altered.