Our laboratory has recently identified a novel Ag, LGL-1, that is expressed on a major population of mouse NK cells. Two color immunofluorescence analysis has demonstrated that spleen cells consist of two major subsets of NK cells. We have identified an NK-1.1+/LGL-1+ subset that consists of 50% of the total NK cells and an NK-1.1+/LGL-1- subset comprising the remaining 50%. Because numerous reports have identified NK cells as the major cell type mediating lymphokine-activated killing (LAK), the NK-1.1+/LGL-1+ and NK-1.1+/LGL-1- subsets were examined for their contribution toward LAK generation, as defined by their ability to lyse P815 tumor targets. Antibody plus C depletion experiments with the use of anti-LGL-1 indicated that LGL-1+ cells were not found on LAK precursor or effector cells. Two-color cell sorting experiments were also performed to separate freshly isolated NK-1.1+/LGL-1+ spleen cells from the NK-1.1+/LGL-1- subset. It was found that the vast majority of LAK activity (greater than 95%) is derived from the NK-1.1+/LGL-1- cells. Cell sorting of LAK effectors also demonstrated that the NK-1.1+/LGL-1- cells mediated the vast majority of lysis against P815 targets. Similar results were obtained when NK cell subsets were analyzed for their contribution toward ADCC. These findings may prove important in understanding and further elucidating the contribution of NK cells to the LAK phenomenon. Our data also indicates that subsets of NK cells exist that may function differently in response to stimulation by various lymphokines and cytokines.