The NKG2D receptor on NK cells can recognize a variety of ligands on the tumor cell surface. Using a mouse renal cancer (Renca), we show that NKG2D recognition by NK cells was crucial for their ability to limit tumor metastases in vivo in both liver and lungs using perforin-dependent effector mechanisms. However, for the R331 cell line established from Renca, NKG2D recognition and perforin-dependent lysis played no role in controlling liver metastases. R331 cells were also more resistant to perforin-dependent lysis by NK cells in vitro. We therefore used these phenotypic differences between Renca and R331 to further investigate the crucial receptor:ligand interactions required for triggering lytic effector functions of NK cells. Reconstitution of R331 cells with ICAM-1, but not Rae-1γ, restored NKG2D-mediated, perforin-dependent lysis. Interestingly, R331 cells were efficiently lysed by NK cells using death ligand-mediated apoptosis. This death ligand-mediated killing did not depend on NKG2D recognition of its ligands on tumor cells. This result suggests that the intracellular signaling in NK cells required for perform and death ligand-mediated lysis of tumor target cell are quite distinct, and activation of both of these antitumor lytic effector functions of NK cells could improve therapeutic benefits for certain tumors.