The neuropathogenicity of West Nile virus (WNV) and two derived attenuated strains WN25 and WN25A, was studied in young adult ICR mice and in severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) mice. Similarity in serology and RNA fingerprints were found between WNV and WN25. The viral envelope proteins of the attenuates differed from WNV in their slower mobility in SDS-PAGE due probably to the presence of N-linked glycan. The three strains were lethal to ICR mice by intracerebral (IC) inoculation, but when inoculated intraperitoneally (IP), WNV caused viremia, invaded the CNS and was lethal, whereas the attenuates showed no viremia or invasion of the CNS. The attenuates elicited antibodies to comparable levels as WNV in IP-infected mice, conferring upon them immunity to IC challenge with the wild type. In IP-inoculated SCID mice the three strains exhibited similar high viremiae that lasted until death of the animals. All strains invaded the CNS and proliferated in the mouse brain to similar high titers, but differed largely in the time of invasion: WNV invaded the CNS of SCID mice (and two other mouse strains) much earlier than the attenuates, which showed large intervals in their time of invasion into individual mouse brains within the group. The data presented for SCID mice indicate that WN25 and WN25A have truly lost the neuroinvasive property, and that this property materialized by a prescribed, active process specific for WNV.