Thirteen kinds of 45-mer single-stranded oligonucleotide, having sequence randomly selected from the known cDNA encoding BCG proteins, were tested for their capability to augment natural killer (NK) cell activity of mouse spleen cells in vitro. Six out of the 13 oligonucleotides showed the activity, while the others did not. In order to know the minimal and essential sequence(s) responsible for the biological activity, 2 kinds of 30-mer and 5 kinds of 15-mer oligonucleotide fragments of an active 45-mer nucleotide were tested for their activity. One of the 30-mer oligonucleotides, designated BCG-A4a, was active, but the other 30-mer was inactive. All of the 15-mer oligonucleotide fragments were inactive. The BCG-A4a also stimulated the spleen cells to produce interferon (IFN)-alpha and -gamma. An experiment using anti-IFN antisera showed that the NK cell activation by the oligonucleotide was ascribed to the IFN-alpha produced. It was noticed that all of the biologically active oligonucleotides possessed one or more palindrome sequence(s), and the inactive ones did not, with an exception of a 45-mer inactive oligonucleotide containing overlapping palindrome sequences (GGGCCCGGG). These findings strongly suggest that certain palindrome sequences, like GACGTC, GGCGCC and TGCGCA, are essential for 30-mer oligonucleotides, like BCG-A4a, to induce IFNs.