The envelope of duck hepatitis B virus (DHBV) consists of the small (S) and large (L) envelope proteins, which share a common C-terminal multispanning transmembrane region but differ by the long N-terminal pre-S domain of L, which is essential for interactions with both the receptor and nucleocapsid. To achieve these dual functions, L acquires mixed topologies through S-dependent post-translational translocation of its pre-S domain. This study has examined the role of S in this unusual mechanism of translocation by analysis of the alpha-helical transmembrane domains and their potential to engage in lateral interactions for envelope assembly. Through mutagenesis in constructs expressing the S and L envelope proteins independently, transmembrane domain 1 was identified as an essential structural determinant in S. Two polar residues in this helix were identified as contributing to L protein translocation through the assembly of S into particles, implying that the topological switch of L is part of the assembly and maturation process. The same domain in L was shown to be dispensable for L translocation and assembly, suggesting that transmembrane domain 1 of L and S have different functional roles and structural arrangements on the assembled particle. The conservation in all hepadnavirus envelope proteins of two polar residues at positions 24 and 27 of transmembrane domain 1, the former positively charged, points to this being a common determinant in particle morphogenesis for all hepadnaviruses.