Nineteen DNA samples that carry integrated hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA were isolated from seven independent human hepatomas by molecular cloning, and their structures were determined. The results, combined with reported data, were analyzed so that one can obtain insights into the mechanisms of integration of this virus DNA and possible rearrangements that occur subsequently. The distribution of DNA junctions along the virus genome suggests that there are recombination-proficient regions. Thus, about half of the integrants were the Coh type, viz., one of their virus-cell DNA junctions fell within the so-called cohesive end region that lies between two 11-bp direct repeats (DR1 and DR2) in the virus genome where transcription and replication of the genome are initiated. All the integrated virus genomes were defective at least in one site around the cohesive end region, particularly within the X gene. The recombination-proficient regions are used not only for formation of virus-cell but also of virus-virus junctions. Neither virus nor cell DNA show unique sequences at the junctions, and targets for integration lie on many different chromosomes.
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