Neutrophils play an essential role in host defense against microbial pathogens and in the inflammatory reaction. Upon activation, neutrophils produce superoxide anion (O*2), which generates other reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), hydroxyl radical (OH*) and hypochlorous acid (HOCl), together with microbicidal peptides and proteases. The enzyme responsible for O2* production is called the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase or respiratory burst oxidase. This multicomponent enzyme system is composed of two trans-membrane proteins (p22phox and gp91phox/NOX2, which form the cytochrome b558), three cytosolic proteins (p47phox, p67phox, p40phox) and a GTPase (Rac1 or Rac2), which assemble at membrane sites upon cell activation. NADPH oxidase activation in phagocytes can be induced by a large number of soluble and particulate factors. Three major events accompany NAPDH oxidase activation: (1) protein phosphorylation, (2) GTPase activation, and (3) translocation of cytosolic components to the plasma membrane to form the active enzyme. Actually, the neutrophil NADPH oxidase exists in different states: resting, primed, activated, or inactivated. The resting state is found in circulating blood neutrophils. The primed state can be induced by neutrophil adhesion, pro-inflammatory cytokines, lipopolysaccharide, and other agents and has been characterized as a "ready to go" state, which results in a faster and higher response upon exposure to a second stimulus. The active state is found at the inflammatory or infection site. Activation is induced by the pathogen itself or by pathogen-derived formylated peptides and other agents. Finally, inactivation of NADPH oxidase is induced by anti-inflammatory agents to limit inflammation. Priming is a "double-edged sword" process as it contributes to a rapid and efficient elimination of the pathogens but can also induce the generation of large quantities of toxic ROS by hyperactivation of the NADPH oxidase, which can damage surrounding tissues and participate to inflammation. In order to avoid extensive damage to host tissues, NADPH oxidase priming and activation must be tightly regulated. In this review, we will discuss some of the mechanisms of NADPH oxidase priming in neutrophils and the relevance of this process to physiology and pathology.