The GATA-3 transcription factor has a determinant role in T cell specification and is an essential mediator of T helper 2-type polarized immune responses. While both committed NK precursors and mature NK cells express GATA-3, a role of this transcription factor in murine NK cell differentiation is not known. We found that NK cells, in contrast to T cells, can be generated in the absence of GATA-3. However, while GATA-3 antagonizes IFN-gamma production in differentiating T cells, GATA-3-deficient NK cells paradoxically produced less IFN-gamma compared to control NK cells and failed to provide early protection in vivo against infection with Listeria monocytogenes. Surprisingly, GATA-3 was essential for NK cell homing to the liver. Our results suggest that GATA-3 promotes NK cell maturation and acts in this lineage to specify distinct effector phenotypes.