Dengue virus (DENV) was designated as a top 10 public health threat by the World Health Organization in 2019. No clinically approved anti-DENV drug is currently available. Here we report the high-resolution cocrystal structure (1.5 Å) of the DENV-2 capsid protein in complex with an inhibitor that potently suppresses DENV-2 but not other DENV serotypes. The inhibitor induces a "kissing" interaction between two capsid dimers. The inhibitor-bound capsid tetramers are assembled inside virions, resulting in defective uncoating of nucleocapsid when infecting new cells. Resistant DENV-2 emerges through one mutation that abolishes hydrogen bonds in the capsid structure, leading to a loss of compound binding. Structure-based analysis has defined the amino acids responsible for the inhibitor's inefficacy against other DENV serotypes. The results have uncovered an antiviral mechanism through inhibitor-induced tetramerization of the viral capsid and provided essential structural and functional knowledge for rational design of panserotype DENV capsid inhibitors.
Keywords: antiviral drug; capsid; dengue; flavivirus; virus assembly.