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A precore mutant is a variety of hepatitis B virus. The HBV has four genes: S, P, C, and X. The S gene codes for the "major" envelope protein (HBsAg). The largest gene is P. It codes for DNA polymerase. The C gene codes for HBeAg and HBcAg. The C gene has a precore and a core region. If translation is initiated at the precore region, the protein product is HBeAg. If translation begins with the core region, HBcAg is the protein product. HBeAg is a marker of HBV replication and infectivity. The precore region is not necessary for viral replication. “Precore mutants” can replicate. They are readily detectable by HBV DNA in serum, but hepatitis B e antigen (HbeAg) is absent. The X gene codes for HBxAg. The product of the X gene is hepatitis B x antigen (HBxAg). It may be involved in carcinogenesis. References