Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is an enveloped hepatotropic DNA virus. Acute and chronic HBV infection causes significant liver diseases such as acute hepatis, fulminant hepatitis and chronic active hepatitis that may lead to liver cirrhosis and the development of hepatocellular carcinoma. The use of molecular biological techniques has substantially improved our understanding of the HBV life cycle. In this review, we discuss recent advances that have contributed to a better understanding of HBV biology. Recent studies in the understanding of the life cycle of HBV such as viral entry, replication, transcriptional regulation, viral regulatory proteins, viral assembly and secretion, and nucleic acid based approaches to antiviral therapy will be emphasized. These advances in molecular biology and relationship to clinical disease will be instrumental in developing effective therapeutic approaches for the estimated 300 million individuals worldwide chronically infected with HBV.
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