We determined full-length nucleotide sequence of hepatitis B virus (HBV) genome in sera from 40 Japanese patients with HBsAg-positive hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), in order to obtain information on HCC-specific characteristics, if any, of the HBV genome. Direct sequencing of the long distance PCR products starting from 50 microliters of serum samples revealed that 95% of our isolates were of genotype C, and that mutations and deletions/insertions were very common. With respect to envelope protein genes, deletions and missense mutations were frequent in preS2, and the determinant a domain of HBsAg was rich in "antibody-escape" mutations. Within the precore/core region, the most remarkable mutation was the replacement of proline of wild type by other amino acids at codon 130 of the core gene, which was found in 58% of our isolates, while precore-stop mutation was found in 45%. Most interestingly, however, about 90% of our isolates had mutations at nt positions 1762 (A-to-T) and 1764 (G-to-A) within the core promoter, which had been implicated in "e-suppressive" phenotype of HBV genome. G-to-A at nt 1613 and C-to-T at nt 1653 within enhancer II and T-to-C/A at nt 1753 within core promoter were also evident: 38%, 53%, and 40%, respectively. It was interesting that some of the characteristics observed in our isolates form HCC patients had been previously implicated in fulminant hepatitis and/or acute exacerbation of chronic hepatitis.