An approach to develop fully human monoclonal antibodies in a human/mouse radiation chimera, the Trimera system, is described. In this system, functional human lymphocytes are engrafted in normal strains of mice which are rendered immuno-incompetent by lethal total body irradiation followed by radioprotection with severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) mouse bone marrow. Following transplantation, human lymphocytes colonize murine lymphatic organs and secrete human immunoglobulins. We have established this system as a tool to develop fully human monoclonal antibodies, and applied it for the generation of monoclonal antibodies specific for hepatitis B virus surface antigen. A strong memory response to hepatitis B surface antigen was elicited in Trimera engrafted with lymphocytes from human donors positive for antibodies to hepatitis B surface antigen. The human specific antibody fraction in the Trimera was 10(2)-10(3)-fold higher as compared with that found in the donors. Spleens were harvested from Trimera mice showing high specific-antibody titres and cells were fused to a human-mouse heteromyeloma fusion partner. Several stable hybridoma clones were isolated and characterized. These hybridomas produce high-affinity, IgG, anti-hepatitis B surface antigen antibodies demonstrating the potential of the Trimera system for generating fully human monoclonal antibodies. The biological function and the neutralizing activity of these antibodies are currently being tested.