Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a prototype for liver-specific pathogens in which the failure of the immune system to mount an effective response leads to chronic infection. Our understanding of the immune response to HBV is incomplete, largely due to the narrow host restriction of this pathogen and the limitations of existing experimental models. We have developed a murine model for studying human HBV replication, immunogenicity, and control. After transfection of hepatocytes in vivo with a replication-competent, over-length, linear HBV genome, viral antigens and replicative intermediates were synthesized and virus was secreted into the blood. Viral antigens disappeared from the blood as early as 7 days after transfection, coincident with the appearance of antiviral antibodies. HBV transcripts and replicative intermediates disappeared from the liver by day 15, after the appearance of antiviral CD8 + T cells. In contrast, the virus persisted for at least 81 days after transfection of NOD/Scid mice, which lack functional T cells, B cells, and natural killer (NK) cells. Thus, the outcome of hydrodynamic transfection of HBV depends on the host immune response, as it is during a natural infection. The methods we describe will allow the examination of viral dynamics in a tightly controlled in vivo system, the application of mutagenesis methods to the study of the HBV life cycle in vivo, and the dissection of the immune response to HBV using genetically modified mice whose immunoregulatory and immune effector functions have been deleted or overexpressed. In addition, this methodology represents a prototype for the study of other known and to-be-discovered liver-specific pathogens.