Reactive oxygen species (ROS) trigger programmed cell death in neonatal sympathetic neurons that have been deprived of nerve growth factor (NGF), however, the source of these oxygen intermediates has not been established. Using laser scanning confocal microscopy (LSCM), the intracellular distribution of the subunits of the ROS-generating enzyme NADPH oxidase was examined in sympathetic neurons of the superior cervical ganglion (SCG). Optical sectioning using LSCM showed that gp91-phox and p22-phox co-localize in neurons at the cell membrane, while the p47-phox and p67-phox subunits are found uniformly distributed in the cytoplasm of neurons maintained in the presence of NGF. Within 4h after NGF deprivation, both the p47-phox and p67-phox subunits exhibit punctate staining in the cytoplasm and at the membrane. Furthermore, a sub-population of the cytosolic p47-phox appeared to co-localize with the membrane-bound gp91-phox in NGF-deprived neurons. These data provide support for the presence of NADPH oxidase in sympathetic neurons and suggest that this enzyme may become activated following the withdrawal of NGF.