The polymerase encoded by human hepatitis B virus, which has reverse transcriptase and RNase H activity, binds to its pregenomic RNA template in a two-step process involving a terminal redundancy. Both first strand and second strand DNA synthesis involve primer translocation and second strand synthesis involves a template jump. Three parts of the genome, including the so-called core promoter, are known to show deletions in strains usually arising after long-standing HBV infection, but also in some patients treated with interferon. A computer-based study of RNA template folding in the core promoter region, accommodating well-known point mutations, has generated a model for the 3' DR1 primer binding site as being part of a superstructure encompassing an already well-established stem-loop. Depending on the identity of nucleotides 1762 and 1764, the DR1 region may assume two alternative secondary structures which stabilize it as a primer binding site to different extents. Remarkably, one of these structures includes a pronounced loop which coincides with at least 12 related deletions seen in HBV DNA from different patients. Thus according to the model, the 5'- and 3'-ends of pregenomic RNA, which share primary sequences but have separate functions, are not structural equivalents. An RNA superstructure near the 3'-end of all HBV transcripts could have far-reaching implications for the modulation of both genome replication and post-transcriptional processing.