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Natural killer (NK) cells can be divided into several subpopulations according to their expression of the surface antigens CD16 and CD56. The modest quantity of NK cells in the blood available for functional analysis has been a limitation in studies of NK cell subpopulations. In the present study, epinephrine infusion was used to induce lymphocytosis before immunomagnetic methods were applied to isolate CD16±CD56+ and CD16+CD56- CD3- NK cells. These subpopulations were compared according to their proliferative and cytotoxic capabilities in 10 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected individuals and 5 healthy controls. The CD16+CD56- NK cell subgroup had a higher proliferative capacity, whereas the CD16±CD56+ NK cell subgroup was mainly cytotoxic, and unaffected by HIV serostatus. This study thus suggests that NK cell phenotypes more strongly predict NK cell function than HIV serostatus. This assertion should be considered when studying NK cell function in subjects with a deviating composition of NK cells.