A mAb, porcine NK-inhibitory mAb (PNK-I) that inhibits porcine NK activity without affecting antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC) has been developed. PNK-I acts at the level of the effector cell and inhibition of NK activity is independent of complement. Inhibitory effects are seen against various human and murine NK-susceptible targets. Addition of PNK-I antibody up to 60 min after assay initiation was effective at inhibiting NK activity. Furthermore PNK-I does not inhibit E:T conjugation and inhibits during the Ca2(+)-dependent phase of NK cytolysis. PNK-I Ag is present on virtually all PBL showing a bimodal distribution with 74% "dim" and 15% "bright" by flow cytometry. Monocytes and granulocytes stain with an intermediate intensity with greater than 90% and 95% staining positively, respectively. F(ab')2 fragments of PNK-I antibody show identical staining and functional activity as the whole molecule indicating that PNK-I acts independently of FcR. PNK-I immunoprecipitates molecules of molecular mass of 166, 155, 95 kDa under reducing and nonreducing conditions. PNK-I appears to be recognizing an epitope on a CD18 molecule. The CD18 molecule (beta-chain of CD11a,b,c) is ubiquitous on the surface of leukocytes and is implicated in a variety of cellular functions. Dim and bright populations were sorted and assessed functionally for NK and ADCC activity. It is demonstrated that PNK-I+ bright lymphocytes contain all detectable NK and ADCC activity in porcine PBL. Furthermore PNK-I+ bright lymphocytes contain the cytokine responsive NK cells capable of stimulation by IL-2, porcine NK-activating factor, and porcine natural killer-enhancing mAb. PNK-I+ dim cells were devoid of all baseline as well as inducible NK and ADCC activity. Giemsa stain of sorted populations show PNK-I+ bright cells containing the large granular lymphocytes whereas dim are devoid of these. Two color analysis show that PT4+ cells are PNK-I+ dim whereas PT8+ lymphocytes are divided between PNK-I+ bright and dim populations. Our results indicate that we are able to isolate all active as well as inducible NK and ADCC effector cells from porcine PBL based on relative Ag expression of CD18. Therefore quantitative as well as qualitative antigen expression is important in NK/ADCC-mediated cytotoxicity.