An asymptomatic and transitory brain infection takes place in adult Swiss CD-1 mice after intranasal inoculation of HSV-1 strain SC16. Time course and distribution of the infection in the brain are demonstrated, (i) by titration of the nasal tissue and olfactory bulbs for 16 days post-infection (p.i.), showing a maximum production yield on day 7 p.i. and no replicating virus on day 16 p. i.; (ii) expression in the brain of the lac Z reporter gene of HSV-1 strain SC16-DeltaUS5-lac Z consistent with a central spread of the virus through the central olfactory pathways and the trigeminal system as described in acute HSV-1 encephalitis models; (iii) PCR amplifications of a segment of the thymidine kinase gene (HSV-tk) showing the persistence of viral genome in the nasal tissue and olfactory bulbs after clearance of infectious virus. The asymptomatic character of the infection is demonstrated over 2 months p.i. (i) by normal body weight; (ii) a neurological survey which excludes motor, sensory, balance and postural signs; (iii) two behavioral tests, the open-field test for exploratory activity and the cookie-finding test for olfactory search. On the other hand, intracerebral inocula cause encephalitis and death in a few days (LD50 ca. 14 p.f.u.). Intracranial, surgical transection of one olfactory nerve does not prevent infection of the corresponding bulb nor does it modify virus distribution, suggesting multiple entry routes from the nasal cavity to the brain. In conclusion, HSV-1 strain SC16 reaches the brain of CD-1 mice from the nasal cavity and replicates without neurological or behavioral signs.