Killer cell inhibitory receptors represent a family of p58/70-Ig-like proteins expressed on the surface of human NK cells. Engagement of class I MHC by killer cell inhibitory receptors turns off the lytic machinery of NK cells. This receptor/ligand interaction results in phosphorylation of intracellular tyrosine residues of p58/70 proteins. Murine NK cells express surface receptors of an unrelated family of type II lectin-like proteins, Ly-49, that have similar functions. Ly-49A, -C, and -G2 represent murine inhibitory receptors. However, Ly-49D functions as an activation receptor on the surface of NK cells. This dichotomy of function between Ly-49 family members suggested different signaling events upon receptor/ligand interaction. Here we demonstrate that: 1) in transfected Cos7 and murine NK cells, Ly-49A, -C, and -G2 are phosphorylated following pervanadate stimulation, whereas Ly-49D is not; 2) mAb-induced receptor ligation mediates tyrosine phosphorylation of Ly-49A and -G2, but not Ly-49D; 3) SHP-1 coprecipitates with Ly-49A and -G2 following receptor phosphorylation; and 4) tyrosine phosphorylation of Ly-49 inhibitory receptors depends on tyrosine residues restricted to the immunoreceptor tyrosine-based inhibitory motif. Our data further support the involvement of immunoreceptor tyrosine-based inhibitory motifs as crucial sequences regulating receptor-mediated inhibitory functions in NK cells.