The three mammalian transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) isoforms are each secreted in a latent complex in which TGF-beta homodimers are non-covalently associated with homodimers of their respective pro-peptide called the latency-associated peptide (LAP). Release of TGF-beta from its LAP, called activation, is required for binding of TGF-beta to cellular receptors, making extracellular activation a critical regulatory point for TGF-beta bioavailability. Our previous work demonstrated that latent TGF-beta1 (LTGF-beta1) is efficiently activated by ionizing radiation in vivo and by reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated by Fenton chemistry in vitro. In the current study, we determined the specific ROS and protein target that render LTGF-beta1 redox sensitive. First, we compared LTGF-beta1, LTGF-beta2 and LTGF-beta3 to determine the generality of this mechanism of activation and found that redox-mediated activation is restricted to the LTGF-beta1 isoform. Next, we used scavengers to determine that ROS activation was a function of OH(.) availability, confirming oxidation as the primary mechanism. To identify which partner of the LTGF-beta1 complex was functionally modified, each was exposed to ROS and tested for the ability to form a latent complex. Exposure of TGF-beta1 did not alter its ability to associate with LAP, but exposing LAP-beta1 to ROS prohibited this phenomenon, while treatment of ROS-exposed LAP-beta1 with a mild reducing agent restored its ability to neutralize TGF-beta1 activity. Taken together, these results suggest that ROS-induced oxidation in LAP-beta1 triggers a conformational change that releases TGF-beta1. Using site-specific mutation, we identified a methionine residue at amino acid position 253 unique to LAP-beta1 as critical to ROS-mediated activation. We propose that LTGF-beta1 contains a redox switch centered at methionine 253, which allows LTGF-beta1 to act uniquely as an extracellular sensor of oxidative stress in tissues.