To characterize the early events of foot-and-mouth disease virus (FMDV) infection in cattle subsequent to simulated natural exposure, 16 steers were aerosol inoculated with FMDV and euthanized at various times. Samples were collected from each steer antemortem (serum, nasal swabs, and oral swabs) and postmortem (up to 40 tissues per animal) and screened for FMDV by virus isolation and for FMDV RNA by real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. Tissues that tested positive for FMDV or viral RNA were examined by immunohistochemistry and multichannel immunofluorescence microscopy. In previremic steers, FMDV was most consistently localized to nasopharyngeal tissues, thereby indicating this region as the most important site of primary viral replication. The earliest site of microscopic localization of FMDV antigens was the lymphoid follicle-associated epithelium of the pharyngeal mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue of the nasopharynx at 6 hours postaerosolization. At early time points after aerosol inoculation, viral antigens colocalized with cytokeratin-positive pharyngeal epithelial cells; intraepithelial FMDV-negative, MHCII/CD11c-double-positive dendritic cells were present in close proximity to FMDV-positive cells. Onset of viremia coincided with marked increase of viral loads in pulmonary tissues and with substantial decrease of viral detection in nasopharyngeal tissues. These data indicate that subsequent to aerogenous exposure to FMDV, the temporally defined critical pathogenesis events involve (1) primary replication in epithelial cells of the pharyngeal mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue crypts and (2) subsequent widespread replication in pneumocytes in the lungs, which coincides with (3) the establishment of sustained viremia.