We have isolated a cDNA clone from a human activated NK cell-derived cDNA library that identifies a transcript (NK4) that is selectively expressed in lymphocytes. The expression of this transcript is increased after activation of T cells by mitogens or activation of NK cells by IL-2 (lymphokine-activated killer cells). The transcript levels demonstrated by Northern blot analysis increase by 12 h after activation, remain high for at least 48 h, and require protein synthesis for expression. Southern blot analysis of B lymphoblastoid lines derived from 18 unrelated individuals reveal variable banding patterns suggestive of polymorphism within the NK4 gene. No homology was found between the sequence of the coding region of this transcript and any sequences in the GenBank data base. Sequence homology to the U1 small nuclear RNA was found within the 3' untranslated region immediately upstream of the site of polyadenylation, suggesting a possible role for U1 in the polyadenylation process. Sequence analysis indicates the transcript would encode a protein having a mass of 27 kDa. The presence of a signal sequence and lack of a transmembrane region suggests that the protein is secreted. In addition, the protein contains an RGD sequence that may be involved in cellular adhesion. This transcript appears to encode a novel product common to the activation pathways of both NK cells and T cells.