The effect of Tsusanli acupuncture point (S36 acupoint) stimulation on splenic natural killer (NK) cytotoxicity was examined in Fischer 344 (F344) rats. Electro-acupuncture stimulation (voltage intensity, 1 to 5 V; duration, 1 ms; frequency, 1 Hz) was applied to bilateral S36 acupoints once a day (1 h) for 3 d. NK cytotoxicity was measured by the standard 4-h 51Cr release assay. Successive acupuncture treatment for 3 d significantly enhanced splenic NK cytotoxicity (p < 0.001) on the first day after final treatment as compared to that of the control. However, similar stimulation to abdominal muscle did not influence splenic NK cytotoxicity. We also examined endogenous cytokine activities in aqueous spleen extracts prepared from acupunctured and control rats. The extracts from rats acupunctured at the S36 acupoint contained high levels of interleukin (IL)-2 and interferon (IFN)-gamma as compared to those of abdominal muscle acupunctured and non-acupunctured control rats (p < 0.01). Furthermore, a significant positive correlation (p < 0.01) was observed between the levels of each cytokine tested and splenic NK cytotoxicity. The same positive correlation was also observed between the levels of IL-2 and IFN-gamma (p < 0.01). These observations indicate that electro-acupuncture stimulation of the S36 acupoint enhances splenic NK cytotoxicity and that IL-2 and IFN-gamma may function, at least in part, in the regulation of NK cell activity in this system.