Natural killer (NK) cells show differential functionality based on their capability of binding to self-MHC consistent with licensing. Here we show in vivo confirmation of the physiologic effects of licensing with differential effects of NK subsets on anti-murine cytomegalovirus (anti-MCMV) responses after syngeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) or regulatory T-cell (Treg) depletion. After HSCT, depletion of licensed NK cells led to far greater viral loads in target organs early after infection compared with nondepleted and unlicensed depleted mice. There was a preferential expansion of licensed, C-type lectin-like activating receptor Ly49H+ NK cells with increased IFNγ production after infection in nondepleted mice post-HSCT and after Treg depletion. Adoptive transfer of licensed NK subsets into immunodeficient hosts provided significantly greater MCMV resistance compared with transfer of total NK populations or unlicensed subsets. In non-HSCT mice, only concurrent depletion of Tregs or TGF-β neutralization resulted in detection of NK licensing effects. This suggests that licensed NK cells are the initial and rapidly responding population of NK cells to MCMV infection, but are highly regulated by Tregs and TGF-β.