Amino acid residues 101 to 180 of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) were predicted by sequencing the corresponding part of the S gene of hepatitis B virus (HBV) DNA in 46 HBsAg-positive sera, which had been subtyped by immunodiffusion with respect to to and . The sequences of the nine different HBV serotypes defined by these specificities were found to be homogeneous proving that they represent consistent variations of HBV at the genomic level. Residue 127 was found to be important as were Pro, Thr and Leu for and , respectively. Five residues were found to differ between and . These were at positions 134 (Phe instead of Tyr), 143 (Thr instead of Ser), 159 (Ala instead of Gly), 161 (Tyr instead of Phe) and 168 (Val instead of Ala). However, all these residues were shared by and , implying that Arg was also important for expression. All genomes expressing , apart from one strain, had an Ile, which might explain the pseudo-allelism of to in relation to , since this substitution might influence the epitope. There were two regions where and differed from all the subtypes. These were located at residues 158 and 159, and at residues 177 and 178, where both the subtypes had amino acid substitutions in adjacent positions. The mapping of the epitopes defining these antigenic specificities will help to link information on the world-wide distribution of HBsAg subtypes to future molecular epidemiology with regard to HBV.


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