Barkedji virus, named after the area of its first identification in Senegal, is a newly discovered flavivirus (FV), for which we propose the abbreviation BJV. In the present study, we report the firsttime detection of BJV in Culex perexiguus mosquitoes in Israel in 2011 and determination of its almost complete polyprotein gene sequence. We characterized the BJV genome and defined putative mature proteins, conserved structural elements and potential enzyme motifs along the polyprotein precursor. By comparing polyproteins and individual proteins of BJV with several other FVs, a distant relationship of BJV to Nounane virus (NOUV), a recently described African FV, is demonstrated. Phylogenetic analysis of 55 selected flaviviral polyprotein gene sequences exhibits two major clusters, one made up of the classical three clades of FVs: mosquito-borne, tick-borne and those without known vectors. The other cluster exclusively contains so-called 'insect-specific' FVs, which do not replicate in vertebrate cells. Based on our phylogenetic analysis, BJV is related to other members of the mosquito-borne clade with yet unknown vertebrate hosts, such as NOUV, Donggang virus, Chaoyang virus and Lammi virus. However, with a maximum identity of only 54% to NOUV, BJV represents a distinct new virus species.
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