Signaling by the CD94/NKG2 heterodimeric NK cell receptor family has been well characterized in the human but has remained unclear in the mouse and rat. In the human, the activating receptor CD94/NKG2C associates with DAP12 by an ionic bond between oppositely charged residues within the transmembrane regions of NKG2C and DAP12. The lysine residue responsible for DAP12 association is absent in rat and mouse NKG2C and -E, raising questions about signaling mechanisms in these species. As a possible substitute, rat and mouse NKG2C and -E contain an arginine residue in the transition between the transmembrane and stalk regions. In this article, we demonstrate that, similar to their human orthologs, NKG2A inhibits, whereas NKG2C activates, rat NK cells. Redirected lysis assays using NK cells transfected with a mutated NKG2C construct indicated that the activating function of CD94/NKG2C did not depend on the transmembrane/stalk region arginine residue. Flow cytometry and biochemical analysis demonstrated that both DAP12 and DAP10 can associate with rat CD94/NKG2C. Surprisingly, DAP12 and DAP10 did not associate with NKG2C but instead with CD94. These associations depended on a transmembrane lysine residue in CD94 that is unique to rodents. Thus, in the mouse and rat, the ability to bind activating adaptor proteins has been transferred from NKG2C/E to the CD94 chain as a result of mutation events in both chains. Remarkable from a phylogenetic perspective, this sheds new light on the evolution and function of the CD94/NKG2 receptor family.