Comparative biophysical and biochemical analyses were performed on purified preparations of hepatitis B antigen (HBs Ag) subtypes adw and ayw, including isoelectric pH evaluations, analysis of the different morphological forms, molecular weight determinations, and analysis of the polypeptides by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, Both HBs Ag-positive plasma and purified HBs Ag were analyzed by electrofocusing in a sucrose ampholyte gradient. Four distinct populations of HBs Ag with a pH range of 4.5 plus or minus 0.1 to 5.4 plus or minus 0.1 for unfractionated plasma samples and 3.9 plus or minus 0.05 to 4.9 plus or minus 0.05 for purified samples were detected in both adw and ayw preparations. Electron microscopic studies of each population of purified HBs Ag revealed 19- to 27-nm spheres in each fraction. Purified material labeled with 125I by the chloramine-T method behaved as one major population with an isoelectric pH value of 3.9 plus or minus 0.1. Purified adw preparations revealed a major population with a molecular weight of 3.7 times 10-6 and a second one of 4.6 times 10-6. Purified preparations of ayw contained one population with a molecular weight of 4.6 times 10-6. Polyacrylamide gel electrophoretic analysis of purified HBs Ag revealed nine polypeptides for ayw and seven for adw particles. These studies indicate that purified preparations of HBs Ag are heterogeneous and that distinct differences can be detected between the two subtypes.