The effects of pure recombinant human interferon alpha A/D (IFN alpha A/D) on natural killer (NK) activity and the experimental lung metastasis of B16-F10 melanoma were studied. Treatment of C57BL/6 mice with IFN alpha A/D augmented splenic NK activity and also inhibited the experimental lung metastasis of B16-F10 melanoma in a dose-dependent manner. The augmentation of NK activity and the inhibition of experimental lung metastasis by IFN alpha A/D were completely abolished in anti-asialo GM1-pretreated mice. These results suggested that the effector cells which inhibited melanoma metastasis in the present system were mainly NK cells, and that it was by activating NK cells that IFN alpha A/D had its effect. We next studied the timing of IFN alpha A/D administration for the most effective prevention of melanoma metastasis. The inhibitory effect of IFN alpha A/D was most pronounced when it was given 12 hr before or at the same time as melanoma inoculation. This suggested that melanoma cells were susceptible to NK cells only for a short period of time after intravascular invasion.