Approximately 10 kb of the estimated 10.9-kb genome of the Japanese encephalitis virus (JE; Nakayama strain) has been cloned as cDNA; the uncloned portion includes 430 bases at the 5'-terminus and 450 bases at the 3'-end. A map of the genome has been developed through nucleotide sequencing and in vivo expression with the Escherichia coli expression vector lambda gt11 and immunological identification. Sequence results for 4320 nucleotides suggest the JE genome organization is very similar to those of three other flaviviruses for which sequence information is available. Like the other flaviviruses, the JE proteins are encoded by a single open reading frame that continues uninterrupted throughout the region sequenced. Considerable homology exists between the JE RNA and protein sequences and those of the other characterized flaviviruses. Comparative nucleotide and (amino acid) homology values for the M-E-NS1-ns2 segment of JE are approximately MVE, 70% (80%), WN, 68% (76%), and YF, 50% (45%). Even greater homology is suggested when the protein hydrophobicity profiles are compared. The molecular relationships are consistent with the established serological relationships among JE, MVE, and WN viruses and argue that these flaviviruses may have been derived from a common evolutionary ancestor.