In cultured hepatocytes from in vivo duck hepatitis B virus-infected ducks the effect of medium osmolarity on viral replication was studied. A 10-day exposure to hypotonic media (277 mOsm/L due to removal of 26 mmol/L NaCl) lowered the duck hepatitis B virus DNA content of cells and of the medium by about 50%, whereas hyperosmotic exposure (421 mOsm/L by addition of 46 mmol/L NaCl) increased it about four-fold compared with normotonic standard incubation medium (329 mOsm/L). The tissue levels of viral RNA transcripts increased during the 10 days of hypertonic exposure but decreased only slightly after hypoosmotic treatment. Western-blot analysis for the production of viral pre-S/S proteins revealed a marked stimulation of viral protein synthesis in hypertonic media, whereas hypotonic exposure inhibited it. Conversely, total cellular protein synthesis as assessed from [3H]leucine incorporation into acid-precipitable material decreased during hyperosmotic exposure but increased during hypoosmotic exposure. We noted a comparable increase of duck hepatitis B virus DNA when raffinose (80 mmol/L) was added to hypotonic or normotonic media, without change in the NaCl concentrations. This suggests that the effects of anisotonicity on viral replication were not due to alterations of Na+ or Cl activity in the incubation media, but might reflect changes of cellular volume. The effects of anisotonicity on viral replication were only seen after exposure of more than 8 hr of the cells to anisotonicity. The findings suggest that the cellular volume is an important determinant for duck hepatitis B virus replication, yet the underlying molecular mechanisms remain elusive. (Hepatology 1994;20:1–7.)