Natural killer (NK) cells are important mediators of virus- and tumor-specific immune responses. The transfection of genes into NK cells has been proven difficult and so far requires infection with virus-based vectors. Here, the application of a novel nonviral, electroporation-based gene transfer method is described for the rapid and highly efficient transient transfection of NK cell lines as well as freshly isolated NK cells. In contrast to conventional methods, this technique, termed nucleofection, leads to direct transfer of DNA into the nucleus. Using reporter proteins H-2K(k), luciferase+, and enhanced yellow green fluorescent protein (EYFP) as independent read-out systems, transfection efficiencies of well over 50% were achieved in transient transfection assays. The highest luciferase activity could be measured only 4 h after transfection, whereas EYFP, when analyzed by flow cytometry, showed expression peaks after 28 h. Interestingly, best transfection efficiencies were achieved with non-dividing NK cells. The novel nuclear gene transfer method presented here is highly useful for the analysis of NK cell-specific gene regulation and should facilitate the development of NK cell-based gene therapy approaches.