A recombinant protein containing part of the dengue (DEN) 2 envelope protein was evaluated as a subunit immunogen for vaccination against DEN virus infection. A gene fragment encoding amino acids 298-400 (B domain) of the DEN-2 virus envelope was expressed as a fusion protein with the maltose binding protein (MBP) of Escherichia coli. This recombinant, DEN-2(B)/MBP, was purified and analyzed for its antigenicity, immunogenicity, and ability to protect mice against lethal challenge. The recombinant antigen reacted with a DEN-2 type-specific neutralizing monoclonal antibody (3H5), DEN-2 hyperimmune mouse ascitic fluid, and DEN-2 immune human sera. When administered to mice, DEN-2(B)/MBP elicited a DEN-2 virus neutralizing antibody response that conferred partial protection against challenge infection with a lethal dose of DEN-2 virus administered by intracranial inoculation. In addition, no replication of DEN-2 virus was detectable in the brains of the immunized mice as compared with control mice that were killed six days after challenge. Sera from immunized mice revealed no cross-neutralizing antibody to any of the other DEN serotypes in the plaque-reduction neutralization test. These findings warrant further studies with the DEN-2(B)/MBP antigen as a potential human vaccine candidate. An effective vaccine could prevent thousands of cases of illness and many deaths each year resulting from DEN virus infections.