Acute starvation, which is frequently observed in clinical practice, sometimes augments the cytolytic activity of natural killer cells against neoplastic cells. In this study, we investigated the molecular mechanisms underlying the enhancement of natural killer cell function by fasting in mice. The total number of liver resident natural killer cells in a unit weight of liver tissue obtained from C57BL/6J mice did not change after a 3-day fast, while the proportions of tumor necrosis factor–related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) + and CD69 + natural killer cells were significantly elevated (n = 7, p <0.01), as determined by flow cytometric analysis. Furthermore, we found that TRAIL − natural killer cells that were adoptively transferred into Rag-2 −/− γ chain −/− mice could convert into TRAIL + natural killer cells in fasted mice at a higher proportion than in fed mice. Liver natural killer cells also showed high TRAIL-mediated antitumor function in response to 3-day fasting. Since these fasted mice highly expressed heat shock protein 70 (n = 7, p <0.05) in liver tissues, as determined by western blot, the role of this protein in natural killer cell activation was investigated. Treatment of liver lymphocytes with 50 µg/mL of recombinant heat shock protein 70 led to the upregulation of both TRAIL and CD69 in liver natural killer cells (n = 6, p <0.05). In addition, HSP70 neutralization by intraperitoneally injecting an anti- heat shock protein 70 monoclonal antibody into mice prior to fasting led to the downregulation of TRAIL expression (n = 6, p <0.05). These findings indicate that acute fasting enhances TRAIL-mediated liver natural killer cell activity against neoplastic cells through upregulation of heat shock protein 70.