Natural killer (NK) cells are large granular lymphocytes of the innate immune system, responsible for direct targeting and killing of both virally infected and transformed cells. NK cells rapidly recognize and respond to abnormal cells in the absence of prior sensitization due to their wide array of germline-encoded inhibitory and activating receptors, which differs from the receptor diversity found in B and T lymphocytes that is due to the use of recombination-activation gene (RAG) enzymes. Although NK cells have traditionally been described as natural killers that provide a first line of defense prior to the induction of adaptive immunity, a more complex view of NK cells is beginning to emerge, indicating they may also function in various immunoregulatory roles and have the capacity to shape adaptive immune responses. With the growing appreciation for the diverse functions of NK cells, and recent technological advancements that allow for a more in-depth understanding of NK cell biology, we can now begin to explore new ways to manipulate NK cells to increase their clinical utility. In this overview unit, we introduce the reader to various aspects of NK cell biology by reviewing topics ranging from NK cell diversity and function, mouse models, and the roles of NK cells in health and disease, to potential clinical applications. © 2015 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.