Natural killer (NK) cells preferentially express several type II glycoproteins of the calcium-dependent lectin superfamily. The genes coding for these molecules are clustered on the distal mouse chromosome 6 and on the rat chromosome 4 in a region designated the NK gene complex. To date, no definite evidence of the presence of a NK gene complex has been found in humans. Here we report the assignment by fluorescence in situ hybridization of the CD94 gene to human chromosome 12p12-p13, in the same region where the CD69 and NKG2A genes had been previously mapped. In addition, using a yeast artificial chromosome contig spanning this region we determined that the human CD94, NKG2A, NKG2C, NKG2E, and NKR-P1A (NKR) genes map to the short arm of chromosome 12. The distal to proximal position of these loci are: NKR- CD69 - CD94/NKG2A/NKG2C/NKG2E. These data demonstrate the existence of a human NK gene complex located within a 5.6 cM interval flanked by the genetic markers D12S397 and D12S89. The physical distance spanned by the NK gene complex in humans ranges between 0.7 and 2.4 megabases.