We have sequenced the complete genome of a hepatitis B virus (HBV) strain that was transmitted from a gibbon with chronic hepatitis B to a chimpanzee that subsequently developed acute hepatitis B. The genome was 3,182 nucleotides long and had a genetic organization identical to and including the characteristics of other mammalian hepadnaviruses. Thus, the regulatory elements, the direct repeats, and the four open reading frames (ORFs) of this virus were all maintained, although there were amino acid substitutions affecting all the ORFs. Within the S gene encoding for the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), the subtype could be deduced as ayw3 in accordance with previous serological results. There were 25 amino acid substitutions affecting the P gene, 12 of which were within the spacer region. This region, which was the most divergent part of the genome compared to other HBV strains, also encodes for the pre-S proteins. A comparison with sequences of other hepadnaviruses revealed that the genome of gibbon HBV was unique as compared to previously described HBV genotypes. It was most similar to the chimpanzee HBV strain with which it shared 90.3% nucleic acid homology at the level of the complete genome and 96.3% homology at the level of the S-gene region corresponding to HBsAg, although being a distinct genotype as compared to the latter virus. Analyses performed using five different algorithms for phylogenetic tree construction showed more than 99% bootstrap support for the gibbon and the chimpanzee HBV to be grouped within the human HBV strains and that they represented later offshoots than the HBV strains of genotype F. However, in most of the dendrograms both the gibbon and the chimpanzee strains represented early lineages, indicating that these viruses are indigenous to their respective hosts and not recent acquisitions from man.