Dengue viruses (DEN) cause a broad spectrum of clinical manifestations including potentially life-threatening conditions such as hemorrhagic shock syndrome and less frequently acute hepatitis with liver failure and encephalopathy. In addition, dengue viruses provide a potential model to understand the initiation of hepatocyte infection by the structurally closely related hepatitis C virus (HCV), because this virus at present cannot be grown in cell culture. Although the initial steps of viral infection are a critical determinant of tissue tropism and therefore pathogenesis, little is known about the molecular basis of binding and endocytic trafficking of DEN or of any other flavivirus. Our studies revealed that binding of radiolabeled DEN to the human hepatoma cell line HuH-7 was strictly pH dependent and substantially inhibitable by the glycosaminoglycan heparin. Ligand-blot analysis, performed as a viral overlay assay, showed two heparan sulfate (HS) containing cell-surface binding proteins resolving at 33 and 37 kd. Based on the sensitivity of unprotected virus and the viral binding site on the cell surface to trypsin, viral internalization was quantified as an increase in trypsin protected virus over time. Virus trafficking to the site of degradation was inhibited by pH dissociation of the clathrin coat and dependent on IP3-mediated homotypic endosomal fusion. These findings confirm the hypothesis that binding and internalization of DEN by hepatocytes are mediated primarily by HS containing proteoglycans and suggest that flaviviruses traffic the major clathrin-dependent endocytic pathway during infection.