The transmembrane receptor for immunoglobulin G immune complexes on natural killer (NK) cells and macrophages, Fc gamma RIIIA (CD16), mediates cellular activation through a tyrosine kinase-dependent pathway. We show that Fc gamma RIII crosslinking results in activation of the src-related kinase p56lck in NK cells and demonstrate a physical association of p56lck with Fc gamma RIIIA in immunoprecipitates from NK cells obtained using anti-Fc gamma RIII antibodies or immune complexes. Our studies show that the zeta chain, the signal transducing subunit of Fc gamma RIIIA and of T cell receptor, associates with p56lck and, in NK cells, is a substrate for this kinase. Such direct association of p56lck with the zeta subunit as confirmed by demonstrating the interaction in heterologous cells transfected with cDNA expressing p56lck and zeta. Our findings demonstrate both functional and physical association of p56lck with Fc gamma RIIIA, through direct interaction of the kinase with the zeta and/or the gamma signal transducer subunits of the receptor. These data suggest a possible mechanism by which activation via Fc gamma RIIIA occurs.

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