In this study, we analyzed the expression and function of the lymphocyte surface lectin NKRP1A on peripheral blood monocytes (Mo) or Mo and dendritic cells (DC) derived from thymic and bone marrow precursors. De novo expression of NKRP1A and CD14 molecules was detected upon culture of CD2- CD3- CD14- CD16- CD1a- NKRP1A- immature thymic precursors for 7 days in the presence of granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF). Under these culture conditions, by day 21, a fraction of cells had lost CD14 and acquired both CD80 (B7.1) and CD86 (B7.2) molecules. These cells displayed a DC-like morphology and were surface NKRP1A positive. CD34+ NKRP1A- CD14- precursors, isolated from bone marrow and cultured in the presence of GM-CSF, also expressed both NKRP1A and CD14: these antigens were newly expressed on about one third of cells which had lost the CD34 precursor marker. In addition, NKRP1A was constitutively present on resting CD14+ peripheral blood Mo. When these cells were cultured in the presence of GM-CSF, the resulting DC population retained the expression of NKRP1A and acquired CD80, while they lost the CD14 antigen. Functional analysis revealed that the engagement of NKRP1A molecule leads to a strong intracellular calcium ([Ca2+]i) increase both in resting peripheral blood Mo and in vitro-derived DC. [Ca2+]i increase was mainly due to extracellular calcium influx, as it was completely abrogated by the addition of EGTA. More importantly, the engagement of the NKRP1A molecule induced interleukin (IL)-1 beta and IL-12 production by resting Mo and DC, respectively. Altogether these data indicate that NKRP1A lectin is present at the surface of Mo and DC and may play a relevant role in the activation and function of both cell types.