Previous reports have shown that spleen cells from nonimmune adult mice of certain strains do regularly kill Moloney leukemia virus-induced lymphomas in short-term 51Cr release assays. This naturally occuring killer (NK) cell had low adherent properties and had the morphological appearance of a lymphocyte. Still it lacked surface characteristics of mature T or B lymphocytes. In the present report a functional study was carried out, comparing in parallel the NK system, the T-cell killing across an H-2 barrier (anti-P815), and the antibody-dependent cell-mediated chicken red blood cell (CRBC) system. In contrast to the effector cells in the CRBC system, the NK cells were insensitive to erythrocyte antibody complement (EAC) rosette depletion and would pass through nylon wool columns. NK activity was not inhibited by the presence of heat-aggregated human or mouse gamma globulin, in contrast to the strong inhibition noted in the CRBC system. Sensitivity to trypsin pretreatment was noted in the NK system as well as in the immune P815 system, whereas the CRBC system was relatively trypsin resistant. Antitheta plus complement eliminated the anti-P815 activity, but did not touch the NK activity. The present results thus further distinguish the NK cell from cytotoxic T lymphocytes or from antibody-dependent killer cells.

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