Lymphocytic infiltrates of BALB/c C4 hyperplastic alveolar nodule (HAN) have elevated natural killer (NK) activity, which correlates positively with the progression of C4 HAN to tumor: C4 HAN produces an infectious mouse mammary tumor virus, MMTV(C4), which encodes a superantigen that activates and deletes T-cells with the V beta 2 segment in the T-cell receptor. In this report, NK activation by both MMTV(C4) and MMTV(C4) superantigen was tested. NK activity was measured in naive BALB/c mice, BALB/c mice depleted of V beta 2+ T-cell, or V beta 2-transgenic mice after they received injections of either purified MMTV(C4) or MMTV(C4)-infected splenocytes. Elevated NK activity was observed in BALB/c mice receiving MMTV(C4) or MMTV(C4)-infected splenocytes. Depletion of V beta 2+, but not V beta 8+, T-cells by specific anti-V beta hybridoma before injection of MMTV(C4)-infected cells reduced but did not eliminate NK activation. NK activation in V beta 2-transgenic mice occurred before massive CD4 T-cell deletion took place and was more pronounced than that in the nontransgenic littermates. These results indicate that MMTV activates NK cells through superantigen-dependent and -independent pathways and supports the role of MMTV(C4) in the augmented NK activity observed in C4 HAN infiltrates. The progression of C4 HAN to tumor represents a model system for the analysis of how tumorigenesis may be affected by lesion-associated viruses.