Mechanisms Underlying Host Range Variation in Flavivirus: From Empirical Knowledge to Predictive Models

Keren Halabi, Itay Mayrose

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Preventing and controlling epidemics caused by vector-borne viruses are particularly challenging due to their diverse pool of hosts and highly adaptive nature. Many vector-borne viruses belong to the Flavivirus genus, whose members vary greatly in host range and specificity. Members of the Flavivirus genus can be categorized to four main groups: insect-specific viruses that are maintained solely in arthropod populations, mosquito-borne viruses and tick-borne viruses that are transmitted to vertebrate hosts by mosquitoes or ticks via blood feeding, and those with no-known vector. The mosquito-borne group encompasses the yellow fever, dengue, and West Nile viruses, all of which are globally spread and cause severe morbidity in humans. The Flavivirus genus is genetically diverse, and its members are subject to different host-specific and vector-specific selective constraints, which do not always align. Thus, understanding the underlying genetic differences that led to the diversity in host range within this genus is an important aspect in deciphering the mechanisms that drive host compatibility and can aid in the constant arms-race against viral threats. Here, we review the phylogenetic relationships between members of the genus, their infection bottlenecks, and phenotypic and genomic differences. We further discuss methods that utilize these differences for prediction of host shifts in flaviviruses and can contribute to viral surveillance efforts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-340
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Molecular Evolution
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Flavivirus
  • Genome composition
  • Host-shifts
  • Machine learning
  • Phylogeny


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