Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) is a neuropeptide, which also modulates some immune functions. Natural killer (NK) cell activity was already found to be diminished by VIP. In the present paper we report that VIP is able to decrease NK cell activity of human large granular lymphocytes (LGL), showing maximal inhibition at doses ranging from 10(-8) to 10(-6) M. Some neuropeptides, belonging to the VIP family (secretin, glucagon, peptide histidine isoleucine, PHI and human growth hormone releasing factor, GHRF), were also tested. Among these peptides, secretin and PHI were shown to be uneffective on NK cell activity whereas glucagon and GHRF were inhibitory. The D50 of GHRF was similar to that of VIP (10(-9) M), the D50 of glucagon was 10(-8) M. A recently synthesized VIP-antagonist (4Cl-D-Phe6-Leu17) was then used to assess its ability to reverse the VIP-mediated inhibition of NK activity. The antagonist was able to completely reverse the inhibitory effect of VIP on NK activity. The VIP-antagonist was also able to reverse the inhibitory effect of glucagon and GHRF, even though to a lesser extent than for VIP. Our data provide a new physiological observation regarding the functional activity of LGL, supporting the presence of a receptor for VIP on human LGL with NK activity.