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Abstract

Cultured 3T3 mouse fibroblasts transfected with cloned hepatitis B virus genome and DNA coding for methotrexate-resistant dihydrofolate reductase, produce and secrete significant amounts of hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg). Ultrastructural morphometry revealed that fibroblasts transfected with hepatitis B virus DNA contained significantly more lysosomes than did fibroblasts transfected with the gene coding for methotrexate resistance or normal fibroblasts. Although abundant HBsAg was found in the cytoplasm of transfected fibroblasts by immunologic methods, HBsAg particles were not detected by electron microscopy. Immunoelectron microscopy localized HBsAg to the nuclear envelope, rough endoplasmic reticulum, and endoplasmic cisternae. These findings suggest that the transfected cells produce mainly nonparticulate HBsAg or that they have a defect in intracisternal packaging of HBsAg into particles.