Dengue virus serotype 2 (DENV2) is widespread and responsible for severe epidemics. While primary DENV2 infections stimulate serotype-specific protective responses, a leading vaccine failed to induce a similar protective response. Using human monoclonal antibodies (hMAbs) isolated from dengue cases and structure-guided design of a chimeric DENV, here we describe the major site on the DENV2 envelope (E) protein targeted by neutralizing antibodies. DENV2-specific neutralizing hMAb 2D22 binds to a quaternary structure epitope. We engineered and recovered a recombinant DENV4 that displayed the 2D22 epitope. DENV2 neutralizing antibodies in people exposed to infection or a live vaccine tracked with the 2D22 epitope on the DENV4/2 chimera. The chimera remained sensitive to DENV4 antibodies, indicating that the major neutralizing epitopes on DENV2 and-4 are at different sites. The ability to transplant a complex epitope between DENV serotypes demonstrates a hitherto underappreciated structural flexibility in flaviviruses, which could be harnessed to develop new vaccines and diagnostics.
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