The major target organ for hepatitis B virus (HBV) is the liver. However, cells other than hepatocytes, including peripheral blood lymphocytes and monocytes, may become infected with HBV. The cell receptor binding site was assigned to the preS(21-47) segment of the HBV envelope protein. HBV receptors were detected on human liver and hepatoma cells, on B lymphocytes, and, as shown here, on monocytes, and T cell lines, activated by Escherichia coli lipopolysaccharide and concanavalin A, respectively. The cell receptors for HBV have not been characterized until now. The detection of HBV receptors and their "activation antigen" characteristic on distinct cells suggested paths for identification of the receptors with already defined cell surface proteins. This search revealed that interleukin 6 contains recognition sites for the preS(21-47) sequence and mediates HBV-cell interactions. Thus, HBV belongs to a group of viruses utilizing cytokines or cytokine receptors for replication and interference with the host immune system.