The strength of the cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) response is believed to influence the final outcome of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Among the different CTL epitopes so far identified, the sequence 18-27 of the HBV nucleocapsid antigen is widely recognized by CTL of HLA-A2-positive patients with acute self-limited HBV infection, and represents the main component of a peptide-based therapeutic vaccine aimed at stimulating the antiviral CTL response in patients with chronic hepatitis B. In the present study, we further analyzed the features of this important HBV region by the following: 1) defining the contribution of individual residues of the epitope to the interaction with the T-cell receptor (TCR) and with the HLA-A0201 molecule; 2) assessing the antigenicity of this viral region in the context of the different HLA-A2 subtypes; and 3) testing whether this sequence can stimulate not only HLA-class I but also HLA class II restricted T-cell responses. A clear hierarchy was observed in the ability of individual residues to act as TCR or HLA binding sites. Furthermore, the sequence HBc18-27 was able to be recognized by specific CTL when presented in the context of different HLA-A2 subtypes. Finally, this HBV region was also found to stimulate HLA class II restricted T-cell responses. These data further increase the potential coverage and efficacy of therapeutic vaccines based on the HBc18-27 sequence.