- We have previously established a model of cytosolic phospholipase A(2) (cPLA(2))-deficient differentiated PLB-985 cells (PLB-D cells) and demonstrated that cPLA(2)-generated arachidonic acid (AA) is essential for NADPH oxidase activation. In this study we used this model to investigate the physiological role of cPLA(2) in regulation of NADPH oxidase-associated diaphorase activity. A novel diaphorase activity assay, using 4-iodonitrotetrazolium violet as an electron acceptor, was used in permeabilized neutrophils and PLB-985 cells differentiated toward the granulocytic or monocytic phenotypes. Phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate, guanosine 5'-3-O- (thio)triphosphate (GTP gamma S), or FMLP stimulated a similar diphenylene iodonium-sensitive diaphorase activity pattern in neutrophils and in differentiated parent PLB-985 cells. This diaphorase activity was not detected in undifferentiated cells, but developed during differentiation. Furthermore, diaphorase activity could not be stimulated in permeabilized neutrophils from X-linked CGD patients and in differentiated gp91(phox)-targeted PLB-985 cells that lacked normal expression of gp91(phox), but was restored to these cells following transduction with retrovirus encoding gp91(phox). The differentiated PLB-D cells showed no diaphorase activity when stimulated by either GTP gamma S or FMLP, and only partial activation when stimulated with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate. Diaphorase activity in response to either agonists was fully restored by the addition of 10 microm free AA. The permeabilized cell 4-iodonitrotetrazolium violet reduction assay offers a unique tool for the evaluation of NADPH oxidase-associated diaphorase activity in stimulated whole cells. These results establish an essential and specific physiological requirement of cPLA(2)-generated AA in activation of electron transfer through the FAD reduction center of NADPH oxidase.