We estimated the amount of hepatocyte turnover in the livers of three woodchucks undergoing clearance of a transient woodchuck hepatitis infection by determining the fate of integrated viral DNA as a genetic marker of the infected cell population. Integrated viral DNA was found to persist in liver tissue from recovered animals at essentially undiminished levels of 1 viral genome per 1,000–3,000 liver cells, suggesting that the hepatocytes in the recovered liver were derived primarily from the infected cell population. We determined the single and multicopy distribution of distinct viral cell junctions isolated from small pieces of liver after clearance of the infection to determine the cumulative amount of hepatocyte proliferation that had occurred during recovery. We estimated that proliferation was equivalent to a minimum of 0.7–1 complete random turnovers of the hepatocyte population of the liver. Our results indicated that during resolution of the transient infections a large fraction of the infected hepatocyte population was killed and replaced by hepatocyte cell division
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