- The phagocyte NADPH oxidase is a multicomponent transport chain that generates superoxide, a precursor of microbicidal oxidants, important for host defense. This transport chain is contained mainly in the large membrane subunit of the oxidase (gp91phox), and transfers electrons from cytosolic NADPH, through FAD binding and heme centers, to molecular oxygen (Babior, 1999; Fujii and Kakinuma, 1991; Rotrosen et al., 1992; Segal and Abo, 1993). Cross et al. have recently described a novel NADPH oxidase diaphorase activity present in the membrane fraction of activated neutrophils, using a cell free model (Cross et al., 1994). This diaphorase activity is measured by the artificial electron acceptor 4-iodonitrotetrazolium violet (INT) and is attributed to the reduction of the flavin center of the flavocytochrome (Cross et al., 1994; Li and Guillory, 1997). In the present study we establish a system for detecting diaphorase activity in intact cells. Neutrophils and PLB-985 cells, that were differentiated using 1.25% dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) to granulocyte phenotype, were permeabilized by electroporation, and diaphorase activity was determined using INT. Neutrophils and differentiated PLB-985 cells stimulated by PMA or GTP gamma S showed a diaphorase activity that was not present in unstimulated differentiated cells. The diaphorase activity could not be detected in undifferentiated cells and was developed during differentiation. The pattern of diaphorase activity in stimulated parent differentiated PLB cells was similar to that observed in stimulated human neutrophils. The permeabilized-INT cell system offers a unique tool for the evaluation of NADPH oxidase diaphorase activity, in whole cells.