In HBsAg-negitive patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), hepatitis B virus (HBV) genomes are present at a low copy number per cell, and the role of HBV in liver transformation is still unclear. We have mapped by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) the HBV genome in 19 HBsAg-negative tumorous and 9 corresponding nontumorous tissues and evaluated, by RT-PCR, the presence of HBV S, X, and C transcripts in the tumorous and nontumorous tissue of nine HBsAg-negative and, for comparison, six HBsAg-positive patients. Disrupted, presumably integrated, HBV genomes were detected by PCR in 10 of 19 tumorous tissues and in only one of nine nontumorous tissues. Significant accumulation of viral RNAs containing X but not C or S sequences was shown in 7/9 tumors and 7/8 nontumorous tissues from HBsAg-negative patients. In contrast, viral RNAs revealed by X-as well as by S- and C-specific primers were detected in five of six tumors and in six of six nontumorous tissues from HBsAg-positive patients. In conclusion, our results suggest the frequent integration of the HBV genome and the accumulation of X-related RNAs in HCCs developing in HBsAg-negative patients. This finding is consistent with a role, in these cases, for the potentially transforming X protein. (HEPATOLOGY 1995;21:313–321.)