Temperature-sensitive folding (tsf) mutations in the gene for the thermostable P22 tailspike interfere with the polypeptide chain folding and association pathway at restrictive temperature without altering the thermostability of the protein once correctly folded and assembled at permissive temperature. Though the native proteins matured at permissive temperature are biologically active, many of them display alterations in electrophoretic mobility. The native forms of 15 of these tsf mutant proteins have been purified and characterized. The purified proteins differed in electrophoretic mobility and isoelectric point from wild type but did not show evidence of major conformational alterations. The results suggest that the electrophoretic variations conferred by the 15 tsf amino acid substitutions are due to changes in the net charge at solvent-accessible sites in the native form of the mutant protein. During the maturation of the chains at restrictive temperature, these sites influence the conformation of intermediates in chain folding and association. The amino acid sequences at these sites resemble those found at turns in polypeptide chains. The isolation of tsf mutations requires that the mature structure of the tailspike accommodates the mutant amino acid substitution without loss of function. The solvent-accessible sites are probably at the surface of this structural protein. This would explain how bulky mutant substitutions, such as arginines for glycines, are accommodated in the native tailspike structure. Such sites, stabilizing intermediates in the folding pathway and located on the surface of the mature protein, probably represent a general class of conformational substrates for tsf mutations.