We recently described a mAb 3.2.3 (IgG1), that recognizes a 60-kD dimeric molecule expressed exclusively on fresh and rIL-2-activated NK cells and polymorphonuclear cells. mAb 3.2.3 enhances cytolytic activity of NK cells against selected FcR+ tumor target cells by reverse antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity (ADCC), indicating that it recognizes an important triggering site on NK cells. The in vivo treatment of F344 rats with mAb 3.2.3 intraperitoneally completely and selectively eliminated NK/ADCC function in the spleen and peripheral blood for up to 10 d after treatment. Total numbers and percentages of T cells, monocytes, or PMN were not decreased and T cell function, as determined by Con A stimulation, was not affected. The reduction in NK function was associated with a decrease in the numbers of LGL and the expression of other NK-related cell surface markers including CD2, CD8, and asialo GM1. Depletion of NK cells with 3.2.3 markedly decreased the survival of F344 rats injected intravenously with MADB106 mammary adenocarcinoma cells, but did not affect the subcutaneous growth of MADB106 tumors. These results indicate that mAb 3.2.3 (in contrast to anti-asialo GM1 and OX8, which are less selective markers) will be useful for studies on the functional role of NK cells in vivo as well as their in vivo differentiation and origin from 3.2.3- precursors.