We report the isolation by molecular cloning and the analysis by heteroduplex and restriction enzyme mapping of seven distinct DNA fragments containing hepatitis B virus (HBV) sequences from genomic DNA of the PLC/PRF/5 human liver carcinoma cell line (the Alexander cell). No intact full-length HBV genomes were present. Three different patterns of organization of HBV fragments were detected. These included two linear fragments without detectable rearrangement, three other HBV fragments with internal deletions, and two HBV fragments containing long inverted duplications. HBsAg sequences are preferentially included in the integrated fragment, whereas the core gene is preferentially eliminated. Several of the integrated HBV fragments might act as templates for the synthesis of functional HBsAg mRNA, whereas only one clone could produce a full core antigen transcript.
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