Although the means by which NK cells may contribute to anti viral defense are still incompletely understood, various studies merge to a better comprehension of pathways that mediate NK cell activation (NK cell mediated cytotoxic activity and cytokine production) and their implications during the immune response towards a variety of viruses. Characterization of a specific expression pattern of ligands for NK receptors on virally infected cells and consequent modulation of NK cell activity have provided new insights in the field. A major break through to a direct evidence of a role for NK cells and NK cell receptors in immune protection against viral infection, was the recent implication of the murine activating Ly49H receptors in immune protection against MCMV infection. Although much remains to be learned concerning implication of NK cells in HIV infection, various reports have documented alteration in NK cell function and numbers during the course of HIV infection or treatment of AIDS. This review will focus on the current knowledge about the factors which might influence NK cell activation during various viral challenge and an emerging view of their alteration during HIV infection.