A solid-phase radioimmunoassay involving specific antibody was developed for determination of the pre-S gene-encoded epitopes of hepatitis B virus and anti-pre-S antibody in sera of hepatitis B patients. The reaction for pre-S determinants associated with HBsAg was quantitatively inhibited by soluble, polymerized human serum albumin, and the lower limit of the assay was about 1.6 ng of HBsAg per ml. Continuous expression of pre-S-coded antigenic sites on HBsAg particles in chronic hepatitis B patients seropositive for HBeAg or anti-HBe shows that these determinants may be considered as a marker of chronicity during hepatitis B virus infection. The anti-pre-S antibody was determined by inhibition of the reaction for pre-S determinants. This antibody, different from anti-HBs, was detected during HBsAg antigenemia in patients recovering from acute type B hepatitis, before anti-HBs response. Kinetics of synthesis of anti-pre-S antibody in the course of acute type B hepatitis, followed by elimination of HBsAg and recovery, suggest the possible role of this antibody in the immunological clearance of infective hepatitis B virus particles.