Peripheral blood natural killer (NK) cells from patients with transporter associated with antigen processing (TAP) deficiency are hyporesponsive. The mechanism of this defect is unknown, but the phenotype of TAP-deficient NK cells is almost normal. However, we noticed a high percentage of CD56bright cells among total NK cells from two patients. We further investigated TAP-deficient NK cells in these patients and compared them to NK cells from two other TAP-deficient patients with no clinical symptoms and to individuals with chronic inflammatory diseases other than TAP deficiency (chronic lung diseases or vasculitis). Peripheral blood mononuclear cells isolated from venous blood were stained with fluorochrome-conjugated antibodies and the phenotype of NK cells was analyzed by flow cytometry. In addition, 51Chromium release assays were performed to assess the cytotoxic activity of NK cells. In the symptomatic patients, CD56bright NK cells represented 28% and 45%, respectively, of all NK cells (higher than in healthy donors). The patients also displayed a higher percentage of CD56dimCD16- NK cells than controls. Interestingly, this unusual NK cell subtype distribution was not found in the two asymptomatic TAP-deficient cases, but was instead present in several of the other patients. Over-expression of the inhibitory receptor CD94/NKG2A by TAP-deficient NK cells was confirmed and extended to the inhibitory receptor ILT2 (CD85j). These inhibitory receptors were not involved in regulating the cytotoxicity of TAP-deficient NK cells. We conclude that expansion of the CD56bright NK cell subtype in peripheral blood is not a hallmark of TAP deficiency, but can be found in other diseases as well. This might reflect a reaction of the immune system to pathologic conditions. It could be interesting to investigate the relative distribution of NK cell subsets in various respiratory and autoimmune diseases.