The presence of NK receptors (NKR) on populations of T cells has been proposed to play a regulatory role in T cell function, fine tuning the response to Ag, and influencing the nature of the immune response through rapid secretion of large amounts of cytokines. In this study, we assessed the nature and distribution of NKR on human peripheral blood gamma delta T cells and established clones to study cytokine release. In circulating gamma delta T cells, approximately 80% expressed CD94, approximately 25% expressed NKR-P1A, and approximately 20% expressed p58, values substantially higher than those found on alpha beta T cells from the same donors. When cloned for specific NKR expression, most cells in culture were NKR-P1A+ whereas p58 expression was variable, suggesting that the NKR-P1A phenotype can be acquired in culture whereas expression of p58 is more stable. Some clones were triple positive for CD94, NKR-P1A, and p58. V delta 2+ cells generally expressed a wider range of NKR than V delta 1+ cells. Following activation through CD3, all gamma delta T cell clones released large amounts of IFN-gamma, commencing as early as 4 h postactivation. Some clones also released TNF-alpha and IL-4, but no correlation with specific NKR expression was noted. Activation through NKR-P1A induced moderate levels of IFN-gamma without inducing IL-4. The results suggest that activation of most gamma delta T cells is regulated by signaling events occurring via both the TCR and the NKR. They further show that peripheral blood gamma delta T cells may function as a source of the proinflammatory cytokines IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha.