Oxygen-derived free radicals are important in both natural and acquired immunity. Neutrophil and macrophage phagocytosis stimulates various cellular processes including the "respiratory burst" whereby increased cellular oxygen uptake results in the production of the potent oxidant bactericidal agents, hypochlorous acid and hydroxyl radical. In addition, nitric oxide, a gaseous radical produced by macrophages, reacts with superoxide to form peroxynitrite, also a potent bactericidal agent. Conversely, oxidative stress may be detrimental in acquired immunity by activation of nuclear factor kappa B, which governs gene expression involving various cytokines, chemokines, and cell adhesion molecules, among others. However, antioxidant supplementation essentially reverses several age-associated immune deficiencies, resulting in increased levels of interleukin-2, elevated numbers of total lymphocytes and T-cell subsets, enhanced mitogen responsiveness, increased killer cell activity, augmented antibody response to antigen stimulation, decreased lipid peroxidation, and decreased prostaglandin synthesis.