In addition to its well-established role in the activation of herpes simplex virus immediate-early gene transcription, VP16 interacts with and downregulates the function of the virion host shutoff protein (vhs), thereby attenuating vhs-mediated destruction of viral mRNAs and translational arrest at late times of infection. We have carried out two-hybrid analysis in vivo and protein-protein interaction assays in vitro to identify determinants in VP16 necessary for interaction with vhs. The minimal amino-terminal subfragment of VP16 capable of binding to vhs encompassed residues 1 to 345. Alteration of a single leucine at position 344 to alanine (L344A) in the context of the amino-terminal fragment of VP16 containing residues 1 to 404 was sufficient to abolish interaction with vhs in vitro and in vivo. Leu344 could be replaced with hydrophobic amino acids (Ile, Phe, Met, or Val) but not by Asn, Lys, or Pro, indicating that hydrophobicity is an important property of binding to vhs. VP16 harboring a loss-of-function mutation at L344 was not compromised in its ability to interact with host cell factor (HCF-1) or to activate transcription of viral immediate-early genes in transient-transfection assays. Virus complementation assays using the VP16-null virus 8MA and the VP16/vhs double-mutant virus 8MAΔSma showed that VP16(L344A) was able to complement the growth of 8MAΔSma but not 8MA. Thus, a single point mutation in VP16 uncouples binding to vhs from other functions of VP16 required for virus growth and indicates that direct physical association between VP16 and vhs is necessary to sustain a productive infection.