The potency of CD8+ cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses toward core antigen has been shown to affect the outcomes of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection. Since single-chain trimers (SCT) composed of peptide epitope beta2-microglobulin (beta2m) and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I heavy chain covalently linked together in a single molecule have been shown to stimulate efficient CTL responses, we investigated the properties of human leucocyte antigen (HLA)-A2 SCTs encoding the HBV core antigen (HBcAg) epitopes C(18-27) and C(107-115). Transfection of NIH-3T3 cells with pcDNA3.0-SCT-C(18-27) and SCT-C(107-115) leads to stable presentation of HBcAg epitopes at the cell surface. HLA-A2.1/Kb transgenic mice vaccinated with the SCT constructs, either as a DNA vaccine alone or followed by a boost with recombinant vaccinia virus, were shown to generate HBcAg-specific CTL responses by enzyme-linked immunospot assay (ELISPOT) and in vitro interferon-gamma release experiments. HBcAg-specific CTLs from vaccinated HLA-A2.1/Kb transgenic mice were able to inhibit HBV surface and e antigen expression as indicated by HepG2.2.15 cells. Our data indicate that a DNA vaccine encoding a human HLA-A2 SCT with HBV epitopes can lead to stable, enhanced HBV core antigen presentation, and may be useful for the control of HBV infection in HLA-A2-positive HBV carriers.