Japanese encephalitis, West Nile, Usutu and Murray Valley encephalitis viruses form a tight subgroup within the larger Flavivirus genus. These viruses utilize a single-polyprotein expression strategy, resulting in similar to 10 mature proteins. Plotting the conservation at synonymous sites along the polyprotein coding sequence reveals strong conservation peaks at the very 5' end of the coding sequence, and also at the 5' end of the sequence encoding the NS2A protein. Such peaks are generally indicative of functionally important non-coding sequence elements. The second peak corresponds to a predicted stable pseudoknot structure whose biological importance is supported by compensatory mutations that preserve the structure. The pseudoknot is preceded by a conserved slippery heptanucleotide (Y CCU UUU), thus forming a classical stimulatory motif for - 1 ribosomal frameshifting. We hypothesize, therefore, that the functional importance of the pseudoknot is to stimulate a portion of ribosomes to shift-1 nt into a short (45 codon), conserved, overlapping open reading frame, termed foo. Since cleavage at the NS1-NS2A boundary is known to require synthesis of NS2A in cis, the resulting transframe fusion protein is predicted to be NS1-NS2A(N-term)-FOO. We hypothesize that this may explain the origin of the previously identified NS1 'extension' protein in JEV-group flaviviruses, known as NS1'..