Candida albicans is able to generate significant amounts of reactive oxygen species (ROS). In this study, ROS generation by yeast and hyphal forms of the strain 3153 A was analyzed to determine whether ROS generation could be a major factor in the invasive behavior of germinative cells. Furthermore, the virulent strain CA6 and its avirulent and agerminative mutant VIR3 were compared. ROS were measured by lucigenin-enhanced chemiluminescence and a cytochrome c assay. During the blastoconidial phase of all strains moderate amounts of ROS were found at cell concentrations > 1 x 10(5)/ml. However, ROS generation appeared to be specifically inhibited at cell concentrations > 1 x 10(8)/ml, and this was found in both assays. As shown in comparative experiments, the medium used for measurement markedly affected the total amount of ROS. Hyphae of strain 3153 A generated a significantly higher amount of ROS than yeast cells and cells with germ tubes (P < 0.001). The strain CA6 showed significantly higher ROS generation than the VIR3 strain for both blastoconidiae and after 30 min of induction of hypha formation (P < 0.05). In conclusion, hypha formation, usually acknowledged as a major factor in Candida pathogenicity, was associated with markedly increased ROS formation. ROS generation was not closely linked to the ability to form hyphae, but was highest in germinative cells.