Very little is known about the role that evolutionary dynamics plays in diseases caused by mammalian DNA viruses. To address this issue in a natural host model, we compared the pathogenesis and genetics of the attenuated fibrotropic and the virulent lymphohematotropic strains of the parvovirus minute virus of mice (MVM), and of two invasive fibrotropic MVM (MVMp) variants carrying the I362S or K368R change in the VP2 major capsid protein, in the infection of severe combined immunodeficient (SCID) mice. By 14 to 18 weeks after oronasal inoculation, the I362S and K368R viruses caused lethal leukopenia characterized by tissue damage and inclusion bodies in hemopoietic organs, a pattern of disease found by 7 weeks postinfection with the lymphohematotropic MVM (MVMi) strain. The MVMp populations emerging in leukopenic mice showed consensus sequence changes in the MVMi genotype at residues G321E and A551V of VP2 in the I362S virus infections or A551V and V575A changes in the K368R virus infections, as well as a high level of genetic heterogeneity within a capsid domain at the twofold depression where these residues lay. Amino acids forming this capsid domain are important MVM tropism determinants, as exemplified by the switch in MVMi host range toward mouse fibroblasts conferred by coordinated changes of some of these residues and by the essential character of glutamate at residue 321 for maintaining MVMi tropism toward primary hemopoietic precursors. The few viruses within the spectrum of mutants from mice that maintained the respective parental 321G and 575V residues were infectious in a plaque assay, whereas the viruses with the main consensus sequences exhibited low levels of fitness in culture. Consistent with this finding, a recombinant MVMp virus carrying the consensus sequence mutations arising in the K368R virus background in mice failed to initiate infection in cell lines of different tissue origins, even though it caused rapid-course lethal leukopenia in SCID mice. The parental consensus genotype prevailed during leukopenia development, but plaque-forming viruses with the reversion of the 575A residue to valine emerged in affected organs. The disease caused by the DNA virus in mice, therefore, involves the generation of heterogeneous viral populations that may cooperatively interact for the hemopoietic syndrome. The evolutionary changes delineate a sector of the surface of the capsid that determines tropism and that surrounds the sialic acid receptor binding domain.