Natural killer (NK) cells originating in mouse peripheral blood were studied with regard to their lytic activity against YAC-1 target cells and to their expression of asialo-GM1 marker on their surface. In Balb/c, CBA/LAK and A/J mice, PBL were found to be approximately twice as effective as splenocytes. Splenic and peripheral NK cells were shown by flow cytometry to have similar lytic potential per cell; the difference in NK activity found in the spleen and in PBL was solely due to the differences in the size of the NK cell population found in the two sites. Strain distribution of NK activity in PBL followed the same pattern observed in splenocytes. The difference in NK activity between CBA and Balb/c mice was shown to be due to the fact that the lytic potential per NK cell was approximately twice as high in the former.