Avian influenza associated with H9N2 and H5N1 subtypes of avian influenza viruses (AIVs) has raised great concerns in China. To study this problem, reverse genetics has been employed. Three reassortants, rgH9N2, rgH5N1 and rgH5N2, were prepared and compared. Their hemagglutinin (HA) and neuraminidase (NA) genes originated from Chinese AIV isolates of H9N2 or H5N1 subtype, while the rest of their genes were derived from A/WSN/33(H1N1) virus (WSN). In the H5 HA reassortants, the multibasic cleavage site was converted to a monobasic one. The results demonstrated that the reassortants did not produce CPE on MDCK cells in the absence of trypsin, showed egg-adaptation phenotype and stability of HA and NA during consecutive egg passages, and were not lethal to chickens and mice. However, the rgH5N1 reassortant exhibited a residual virulence in terms of lethality to chick embryos and pathogenesis in chickens. It can be concluded that (i) the genetic modification of H5 HA attenuated the H5 reassortants, (ii) the presence of internal WSN proteins contributed to the attenuated properties of the reassortants independently on H5 HA, and (iii) also the overall genome composition contributed to virulence differences. This report provides further contribution of reverse genetics to the knowledge of virulence of influenza viruses.