In industrial countries, Hepatitis E virus (HEV) transmission to humans is predominantly assumed to be a zoonotic infection. Recently, it has been demonstrated that about 50% of domestic pigs in Germany carry HEV-specific antibodies. However, further investigations concerning the distribution of HEV in different age groups of German domestic pigs, phylogenetic analyses and the viral load in the porcine liver are still pending. Liver samples of all age groups from herds in a pig-dense region in north-western Germany were investigated for the presence and quantity of HEV RNA and subsequently genotyped. Out of 251 liver samples, 34 contained ORF2-specific RNA, whereas 19 samples were positive using ORF1-specific primers, resulting in an overall detection rate of 13.5% and 7.6%, respectively. Especially nursery pigs and growers were tested positive for viral RNA. Furthermore, determination of the HEV copy numbers revealed high replication levels. Up to 10(9) genome copies per g of liver tissue could be detected suggesting a likely high degree of viral spread to the environment. In the HEV-positive liver samples we found no hints for pathohistological changes reflecting the HEV status.The HEV sequences showed marked diversity but could be assigned to HEV genotype 3 without exception. However, by comparing two different genomic fragments, we found indications for infections with two different HEV variants in domestic pigs. Apart from this, the current study confirms the outcome of our recent serological HEV survey and for the first time gives direct proof of HEV infections in the German domestic pig population.