We have used the Hepatitis B Virus DNA genome as a probe to identify genes clonally mutated in vivo, in human liver cancers. In a tumor, HBV-DNA was found to be integrated into the gene encoding Sarco/Endoplasmic Reticulum Calcium ATPase (SERCA), which pumps calcium, an important intracellular messenger for cell viability and growth, from the cytosol to the endoplasmic reticulum. The HBV X gene promoter cis-activates chimeric HBV X/SERCA1 transcripts, with splicing of SERCA1 exon 11, encoding C-terminally truncated SERCA1 proteins. Two chimeric HBV X/SERCA1 proteins accumulate in the tumor and form dimers. In vitro analyses have demonstrated that these proteins localize to the ER, determine its calcium depletion and induce cell death. We have also shown that these biological effects are related to expression of the SERCA, rather than of the viral moiety. This report involves for the first time the expression of mutated SERCA proteins in vivo in a tumor cell proliferation and in vitro in the control of cell viability. Oncogene (2000).