The safety and immunogenicity of a yeast-derived recombinant hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccine containing surface antigen (S) and selected preS1 and preS2 sequences (S-L*) were compared with those of a vaccine prepared with S alone (Engerix-B). S-L* consisted of composite particles containing S and L* at a ratio of 70/30. L* encompassed amino acid residues 12-52 of preS1 residues 133-145 of preS2, and the entire S domain. A total of 100 healthy, HBV-seronegative, young adults were randomized to receive 20 micrograms/dose of either S-L* or Engerix-B under double-blind conditions according to a 0-, 1-, 2-, 12-month schedule. In vivo humoral and in vitro lymphoproliferative responses to S and preS regions were monitored. Addition of the selected preS sequences to S did not enhance the in vivo humoral anti-HBs response but improved the in vitro stimulating capacity of the antigen (L*) in S-L* primed subjects.