NADH was found previously to catalyze the reduction of various ferric complexes and to promote the generation of reactive oxygen species by rat liver microsomes. Experiments were conducted to evaluate the ability of NADH to interact with ferric complexes and redox cycling agents to catalyze microsomal generation of potent oxidizing species. In the presence of iron, the addition of menadione increased NADPH- and NADH-dependent oxidation of hydroxyl radical (.OH) scavenging agents; effective iron complexes included ferric-EDTA, -diethylenetriamine pentaacetic acid, -ATP, -citrate, and ferric ammonium sulfate. The stimulation produced by menadione was sensitive to catalase and to competitive .OH scavengers but not to superoxide dismutase. Paraquat, irrespective of the iron catalyst, did not increase significantly the NADH-dependent oxidation of .OH scavengers under conditions in which the NADPH-dependent reaction was increased. Menadione promoted H2O2 production with either NADH or NADPH; paraquat was stimulatory only with NADPH. Stimulation of H2O2 generation appears to play a major role in the increased production of .OH-like species. Menadione inhibited NADH-dependent microsomal lipid peroxidation, whereas paraquat produced a 2-fold increase. Neither the control nor the paraquat-enhanced rates of lipid peroxidation were sensitive to catalase, superoxide dismutase, or dimethyl sulfoxide. Although the NADPH-dependent microsomal system shows greater reactivity and affinity for interacting with redox cycling agents, the capability of NADH to promote menadione-catalyzed generation of .OH-like species and H2O2 or paraquat-mediated lipid peroxidation may also contribute to the overall toxicity of these agents in biological systems. This may be especially significant under conditions in which the production of NADH is increased, e.g. during ethanol oxidation by the liver.