The relationship between the cell cycle and early amplification of duck hepatitis B virus covalently closed circular (CCC) DNA was studied after in vitro infection of fetal hepatocytes. We first showed that embryonic hepatocytes proliferated for at least 6 days after plating and that complete viral replication including CCC DNA amplification occurred in these proliferating cells. Addition of sodium butyrate or aphidicolin reversibly blocked cells in the G1 phase and diminished CCC DNA synthesis, which was restored after drug withdrawal, concomitantly with the entry of cells into S phase. Cell cycle progression of fetal hepatocytes can be triggered by stimulation with epidermal growth factor (EGF), hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), and tumor growth factor α (TGF-α). CCC DNA synthesis increased with progression to the S phase induced by EGF, HGF, and TGF-α alone or in combination. By contrast, tumor growth factor β (TGF-β) alone or in combination with EGF inhibited cell proliferation and viral DNA synthesis. By double labeling, viral nucleocapsids were found predominantly in bromodeoxyuridine-positive hepatocytes, indicating that high viral replication occurs preferentially in proliferating hepatocytes. CCC DNA was also detected mainly in cells in the S and G2/M phases separated from cells in the G1 phase by cell sorting. Taken together, these results show that hepatocyte proliferation may positively regulate the initial amplification of CCC DNA of avian hepadnaviruses, and may explain why mitosis is not necessarily associated with loss of CCC DNA.