Natural killer (NK) cells are crucial components of the innate immune system, providing the first line of defense against infectious pathogens and tumors. Interleukin (IL)-12 is an interleukin produced primarily by antigen-presenting cells that play an essential role in the interaction between the innate and adaptive arms of immunity acting upon T and NK cells to generate cytotoxic lymphocytes. In the present study, we explored the effect of IL-12 upregulation on the NK receptor NKG2D and on the promotion of NK cell function. IL-12 enhanced the cytotoxicity of NK cells to different solid and hematological tumor cell lines and promoted interferon-gamma secretion by NK cells. The IL-12-induced cytolytic effect was dependent on the interaction of NKG2D with its ligand, MICA, because blockade of either protein attenuated the effect of IL-12 on NK cytolysis. Reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction and fluorescence-activated cell sorting analyses indicated that IL-12 treatment increased NKG2D transcripts and surface expression in NK cells. Also, IL-12 augmented the expression of cytotoxic effector molecules, TRAIL and perforin, and the phosphorylation of STAT1, STAT4, and ERK1/2, which may also contribute to lysis by NK cells. These results are encouraging for the potential use of IL-12 as part of immunotherapy.