Actinoporins are small 18.5 kDa pore-forming toxins. A family of six actinoporin genes has been identified in the genome of Hydra magnipapillata, and HALT-1 (Hydra actinoporin-like toxin-1) has been shown to have haemolytic activity. In this study, we have used site-directed mutagenesis to investigate the role of amino acids in the pore-forming N-terminal region and the conserved aromatic cluster required for cell membrane binding. A total of 10 mutants of HALT-1 were constructed and tested for their haemolytic and cytolytic activity on human erythrocytes and HeLa cells, respectively. Insertion of 1-4 negatively charged residues in the N-terminal region of HALT-1 strongly reduced haemolytic and cytolytic activity, suggesting that the length or charge of the N-terminal region is critical for pore-forming activity. Moreover, substitution of amino acids in the conserved aromatic cluster reduced haemolytic and cytolytic activity by more than 80%, suggesting that these aromatic amino acids are important for attachment to the lipid membrane as shown for other actinoporins. The results suggest that HALT-1 and other actinoporins share similar mechanisms of pore formation and that it is critical for HALT-1 to maintain an amphipathic helix at the N-terminus and an aromatic amino acid-rich segment at the site of membrane binding.