A special class of immunologic cells can lyse or damage a variety of target cells, notably malignant cells in vitro. These cells have been called natural killer (NK) cells because lysis does not require deliberate immunization by tumor cells. Although these cells can be distinguished from conventional T cells, B cells, and phagocytic cells, they have been difficult to define. We describe a representative cloned cell line that was obtained by cloning Ig -Ly-5+ cells from spleen. This clone, Cl.Ly-1-2-NK-1+/11, displays Thy-1, Ly-5, Qat-4, Qat-5 and NK-1 cell surface antigens and lyses the NK-sensitive YAC-1 lymphoma cells, but does not lyse RL-12 cells, an NK-resistant lymphoma. In addition, this clone lysed the P815 mastocytoma, EL4 lymphoma, and lipopolysaccharide-activated B lymphocyte targets. This cloned population therefore combined information for a unique display of cell surface antigens and specialized function similar to "activated" NK cells. Because this cloned population forms conjugates with susceptible but not resistant target cells, it may prove useful to identify the structure of cell surface molecules that recognize foreign cells. Finally, cells of this clone also specificity lysed target cells coated by antibodies to determinants on the target cell surface, demonstrating that a single cloned cell population can mediate two specialized immunologic functions: antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity and NK cell lysis.