Natural killer (NK) cell subsets can be defined by the differential expression of inhibitory receptors for MHC class I molecules. Early after congenic HSCT, we found that Ly49G2high single-positive NK cells repopulated, displayed an activated phenotype, and were highly cytolytic. Over time, this subset was replaced with NK cells with a normal pattern of Ly49 expression. Treatment of mice with IL-2 also resulted in the rapid expansion of these Ly49G2high single-positive NK cells. Only the Ly49g (Klra7) Pro1 transcript was highly induced in both HSCT- and IL-2-treated recipients. MHC-independent expansion of the Ly49G2+ subset was also observed after Listeria monocytogenes or mouse cytomegalovirus infection. Our data indicate that during reconstitution after HSCT and various activation stimuli, Ly49G2+ NK cells represent the "first-responder" NK cells, which occur independently of NK-cell licensing via Ly49-MHC interactions. These data suggest that the inhibitory Ly49G2 receptor represents an activation marker on mouse NK cells under various conditions.