Dengue virus (DENV) is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that causes an acute febrile disease in humans, characterized by musculoskeletal pain, headache, rash and leukopenia. The cause of myalgia during DENV infection is still unknown. To determine whether DENV can infect primary muscle cells, human muscle satellite cells were exposed to DENV in vitro. The results demonstrated for the first time high-efficiency infection and replication of DENV in human primary muscle satellite cells. Changes in global gene expression were also examined in these cells following DENV infection using Affymetrix GeneChip analysis. The differentially regulated genes belonged to two main functional categories cell growth and development, and antiviral type I interferon (IFN) response genes. Increased expression of the type I IFN response genes for tumour necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL), melanoma-derived antigen 5 (MDA-5), IFN-gamma-inducible protein 10 (IP-10), galectin 3 soluble binding protein (LGals3BP) and IFN response factor 7 (IRF7) was confirmed by quantitative RT-PCR. Furthermore, higher levels of cell-surface-bound intracellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) and soluble ICAM-1 in the cell-culture medium were detected following DENV infection. However, DENV infection impaired the ability of the infected cells in the culture medium to upregulate cell-surface expression of MHC I molecules, suggesting a possible mechanism of immune evasion by DENV. The findings of this study warrant further clinical research to identify whether muscle cells are targets for DENV infection during the acute stage of the disease in vivo.