A major route of transmission of Visna/maedi virus (VMV), an ovine lentivirus, is thought to be via the respiratory tract, by inhalation of either cell-free or cell-associated virus. In previous studies, we have shown that infection via the lower respiratory tract is much more efficient than via upper respiratory tissues (T. N. McNeilly, P. Tennant, L. Lujan, M. Perez, and G. D. Harkiss, J. Gen. Virol. 88:670-679, 2007). Alveolar macrophages (AMs) are prime candidates for the initial uptake of virus in the lower lung, given their in vivo tropism for VMV, abundant numbers, location within the airways, and role in VMV-induced inflammation. Furthermore, AMs are the most likely cell type involved in the transmission of cell-associated virus. In this study, we use an experimental in vivo infection model that allowed the infection of specific segments of the ovine lung. We demonstrate that resident AMs are capable of VMV uptake in vivo and that this infection is associated with a specific up-regulation of AM granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor mRNA expression (P <0.05) and an increase in bronchoalveolar lymphocyte numbers (P <0.05), but not a generalized inflammatory response 7 days postinfection. We also demonstrate that both autologous and heterologous VMV-infected AMs are capable of transmitting virus after lower, but not upper, respiratory tract instillation and that this transfer of virus appears not to involve the direct migration of virus-infected AMs from the airspace. These results suggest that virus is transferred from AMs into the body via an intermediate route. The results also suggest that the inhalation of infected AMs represents an additional mechanism of virus transmission.