Natural killer (NK) cell tolerance mechanisms are incompletely understood. One possibility is that they possess self-specific activation receptors that result in hyporesponsiveness unless modulated by self-major histocompatability complex (MHC)-specific inhibitory receptors. As putative self-specific activation receptors have not been well characterized, we studied a transgenic C57BL/6 mouse that ubiquitously expresses m157 (m157-Tg), which is the murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV)-encoded ligand for the Ly49H NK cell activation receptor. The transgenic mice were more susceptible to MCMV infection and were unable to reject m157-Tg bone marrow, suggesting defects in Ly49H+ NK cells. There was a reversible hyporesponsiveness of Ly49H+ NK cells that extended to Ly49H-independent stimuli. Continuous Ly49H-m157 interaction was necessary for the functional defects. Interestingly, functional defects occurred when mature wild-type NK cells were adoptively transferred to m157-Tg mice, suggesting that mature NK cells may acquire hyporesponsiveness. Importantly, NK cell tolerance caused by Ly49H-m157 interaction was similar in NK cells regardless of expression of Ly49C, an inhibitory receptor specific for a self-MHC allele in C57BL/6 mice. Thus, engagement of self-specific activation receptors in vivo induces an NK cell tolerance effect that is not affected by self-MHC-specific inhibitory receptors.