We have previously reported the establishment and preliminary characterization of polyclonal hepatitis B virus (HBV) nucleoprotein (HBcAg)-specific CD4+ and CD8+ T cell lines derived from the hepatic lymphomononuclear cell infiltrate of several patients with chronic active hepatitis B. The isolated subsets from these lines were specifically activated by HBcAg and displayed antigen-specific help and suppression with respect to proliferation of the alternate subset. One of these lines was recently cloned by limiting dilution, and four HBcAg-specific CD3+ CD4+ CD8-DR+ T cell lines were produced that had a 95.3% likelihood of monoclonality. Antigenic specificity was confirmed by dose-dependent, HLA class II (DR)-restricted proliferation in response to recombinant and human serum-derived HBcAg and the lack of proliferation to HBV envelope antigens (HBsAg and pre-S(2)Ag). All cloned lines were interleukin 2 dependent, produced interferon-gamma in an antigen-specific manner, and provided antigen-specific help to autologous B cells with respect to anti-HBc production. We conclude that HBcAg-specific, HLA-class II restricted helper T cells capable of inducing antigen-specific functional responses by autologous B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes are present at the site of viral antigen synthesis and hepatocellular injury in HBV infection.