IL-12 exerts a potent anti-tumor effect, which is possibly mediated by multiple mechanisms including activation of NK and NKT cells, induction of cytotoxic T lymphocytes, and inhibition of angiogenesis. In the present study, we characterized the cytotoxic effector cells and mechanisms responsible for the anti-metastatic effect of IL-12. Administration of IL-12 had a comparable inhibitory effect on experimental lung metastasis of B16 melanoma cells in wild-type C57BL/6 mice and RAG-2-/- mice that lack T and NKT cells, which was abolished by depletion of NK cells. Cytotoxic activity of liver and splenic mononuclear cells against B16 was induced by IL-12 administration in RAG-2-/- mice at a level comparable to that in wild-type mice, which was also abolished by depletion of NK cells. Moreover, the anti-metastatic effect of IL-12 was abrogated by perforin deficiency, but not by Fas ligand deficiency, in association with a lack of IL-12-induced cytotoxic activity of liver and splenic mononuclear cells against B16. These results suggest that perforin-dependent cytotoxicity of IL-12-activated NK cells is sufficient for the anti-metastatic effect of IL-12.