We have utilized a mouse mutant (C.B-17 scid) that lacks functional T and B lymphocytes to examine the relationship among transplantable progenitors of natural killer (NK) cells, T cells, and B cells. The NK-progenitor cells contained in the bone marrow were detected by their ability to generate mature NK cells, following transfer of bone marrow cells into NK cell-depleted and lethally irradiated mice. Regeneration of NK activity in the recipient mice was monitored by two different assays: the ability to rapidly clear infused YAC-1 cells in vivo and the ability of spleen cells to lyse YAC-1 cells in vitro. Recipients were also tested for the presence of mitogen-responsive T and B cells and for prethymocytes (thymus-repopulating cells). We found that the capacity of C.B-17 scid bone marrow cells to generate mature NK cells was equivalent to that of control C.B-17 bone marrow cells. The regenerated NK cells shared similar functional activity and surface phenotype. In contrast, bone marrow cells from C.B-17 scid mice failed to generate thymocytes and peripheral T and B cells. These data indicate that the transplantable NK-progenitor cells are not defective or deficient in C.B-17 scid mice and, therefore, are distinct from the transplantable progenitor(s) of T and B cells.