Many viruses invade mucosal surfaces to establish infection in the host. Some viruses are restricted to mucosal surfaces, whereas others disseminate to sites of secondary replication. Studies of strain-specific differences in reovirus mucosal infection and systemic dissemination have enhanced an understanding of viral determinants and molecular mechanisms that regulate viral pathogenesis. After peroral inoculation, reovirus strain type 1 Lang replicates to high titers in the intestine and spreads systemically, whereas strain type 3 Dearing (T3D) does not. These differences segregate with the viral S1 gene segment, which encodes attachment protein σ 1 and nonstructural protein σ 1s. In this study, we define genetic determinants that regulate reovirus-induced pathology following intranasal inoculation and respiratory infection. We report that two laboratory isolates of T3D, T3DC and T3DF, differ in the capacity to replicate in the respiratory tract and spread systemically; the T3DC isolate replicates to higher titers in the lungs and disseminates, while T3DF does not. Two nucleotide polymorphisms in the S1 gene influence these differences, and both S1 gene products are involved. T3DC amino acid polymorphisms in the tail and head domains of σ 1 protein influence the sensitivity of virions to protease-mediated loss of infectivity. The T3DC polymorphism at nucleotide 77, which leads to coding changes in both S1 gene products, promotes systemic dissemination from the respiratory tract. A σ 1s-null virus produces lower titers in the lung after intranasal inoculation and disseminates less efficiently to sites of secondary replication. These findings provide new insights into mechanisms underlying reovirus replication in the respiratory tract and systemic spread from the lung.