Hepatocytes of normal adult liver express cytokeratins (CKs) 8/18, but bile duct cells additionally contain CK7/19. We have previously demonstrated the frequent occurrence of foci of altered hepatocytes in association with hepatic tumors in humans and provided evidence for a preneoplastic nature of the focal lesions. In this study, we investigated the CK expression in both the preneoplastic lesions and extrafocal parenchyma. Sixty-seven explanted livers with cirrhosis or advanced fibrosis harboring preneoplastic focal lesions, with or without hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, as well as 9 livers with HBV-associated fulminant hepatitis, were studied for the expression of CK7/8/14/18/19. Five livers from woodchucks infected with the woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV) were also investigated. Glycogenotic clear hepatocytes were negative or weakly positive for CK8/18, while amphophilic hepatocytes were strongly positive for these CKs, the changes being associated with marked reduction and increase, respectively, of highly organized membranous components in their cytoplasm. This allows the distinct recognition of the clear-cell and clear-cell-dominant preneoplastic lesions in the human and woodchuck livers. In ground-glass hepatocytes expressing viral antigens, an unusual accumulation of CK8/18 was observed, but there was no evidence of preferential necrosis of ground-glass hepatocytes. Many CK7- and CK19-positive ductular (oval) cells were found in extrafocal liver tissue, but only rarely were they present within focal lesions.