We reported previously that natural killer (NK) cell-mediated lysis of cytomegalovirus-infected targets requires the presence of HLA-DR+ nonadherent peripheral blood mononuclear cells (NPBMC). In the present study we determined whether NK cell-mediated lysis of other herpesvirus-infected targets also requires HLA-DR+ cells. Depletion of either cluster designation (CD)16+ NK cells or HLA-DR+ cells from NPBMC significantly reduced their ability to lyse herpes simplex virus (HSV)- and varicella-zoster virus (VZV)-infected fibroblasts. When CD16- and HLA-DR- populations were mixed, lysis of both HSV- and VZV-infected targets was virtually completely restored, indicating that NK cells and HLA-DR+ cells were required for lysis to occur. Cell-free supernatants, obtained by incubating NPBMC or CD16- cells with HSV-o-VZV-infected targets, contained antiviral activity and stimulated HLA-DR-cells to mediate lysis of corresponding virus-infected targets. The addition of anti-interferon-alpha to supernatants abolished their ability to stimulate lysis. Thus, secretion of interferon-alpha by HLA-DR+ cells contributes to NK cell-mediated lysis of herpesvirus-infected targets.