In cooperation with human heat-inactivated antisera from adults immunized with group C meningococcal polysaccharide, normal human peripheral blood mononuclear cells significantly decreased the viability of group C meningococci (Mgc) in vitro. K lymphocytes (Null cells) and monocytes, (but not T or B lymphocytes) were capable of effecting antibody-dependent cell-mediated (ADC) antibacterial activity in this system. The degree to which meningococcal viability was decreased was a function of the length of the test incubation, the concentration of effector cells, and the amount of antiserum used in the assay. When specific antibodies directed against Mgc were adsorbed from the antiserum, cell-mediated antibacterial activity was abolished. ADC antibacterial activity was also abrogated by performing the assay at 4 degrees C or by heating effector cells to 46 degrees C for 15 min before the assay, Similarities between the ADC antibacterial system and previously described ADCC assays are discussed. The data suggest the K cells (as well as monocytes) may play a role in host immune defense against pathogenic bacteria.