To better define the mechanism(s) likely responsible for viral clearance during hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection, viral clearance was studied in a panel of immunodeficient mouse strains that were hydrodynamically transfected with a plasmid containing a replication-competent copy of the HBV genome. Neither B cells nor perforin were required to clear the viral DNA transcriptional template from the liver. In contrast, the template persisted for at least 60 days at high levels in NOD/Scid mice and at lower levels in the absence of CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cells, NK cells, Fas, IFN-gamma (IFN-gamma), IFN-alpha/beta receptor (IFN-alpha/betaR1), and TNF receptor 1 (TNFR1), indicating that each of these effectors was required to eliminate the transcriptional template from the liver. Interestingly, viral replication was ultimately terminated in all lineages except the NOD/Scid mice, suggesting the existence of redundant pathways that inhibit HBV replication. Finally, induction of a CD8(+) T cell response in these animals depended on the presence of CD4(+) T cells. These results are consistent with a model in which CD4(+) T cells serve as master regulators of the adaptive immune response to HBV; CD8(+) T cells are the key cellular effectors mediating HBV clearance from the liver, apparently by a Fas-dependent, perforin-independent process in which NK cells, IFN-gamma, TNFR1, and IFN-alpha/betaR play supporting roles. These results provide insight into the complexity of the systems involved in HBV clearance, and they suggest unique directions for analysis of the mechanism(s) responsible for HBV persistence.