Murine spleen cells generate nonspecific cytotoxic cells, referred to as natural killer (NK) cells, within 4 d of incubation in Mishell-Dutton cultures. This NK cell type does not arise in cultures of BALB/c.nu spleen cells or in cultures of T-cell depleted C57BL/6 spleen cells, indicating that its activation depends on T cells. Another type of NK cells is induced by tumor necrosis serum in murine spleen-cell cultures. It arises within 24 h and its activation does not depend on T cells. This cell type (and its precursor) expresses the recently discovered cell-surface marker Qa5 (controlled by the Q region of chromosome 17) that distinguishes this NK cell from the NK cell that depends for its activation on thymic function. Qa5+ NK cells are also induced by interferon.