The kinetics of the glucose oxidase-catalyzed reaction of glucose with O2, which produces gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide, and the catalase-assisted breakdown of hydrogen peroxide to generate oxygen, have been measured via the rate of O2 depletion or production. The O2 concentrations in air-saturated phosphate-buffered salt solutions were monitored by measuring the decay of phosphorescence from a Pd phosphor in solution; the decay rate was obtained by fitting the tail of the phosphorescence intensity profile to an exponential. For glucose oxidation in the presence of glucose oxidase, the rate constant determined for the rate-limiting step was k = (3.0 +/- 0.7) x 10(4) M(-1) s(-1) at 37 degrees C. For catalase-catalyzed H2O2 breakdown, the reaction order in [H2O2] was somewhat greater than unity at 37 degrees C and well above unity at 25 degrees C, suggesting different temperature dependences of the rate constants for various steps in the reaction. The two reactions were combined in a single experiment: addition of glucose oxidase to glucose-rich cell-free media caused a rapid drop in [O2], and subsequent addition of catalase caused [O2] to rise and then decrease to zero. The best fit of [O2] to a kinetic model is obtained with the rate constants for glucose oxidation and peroxide decomposition equal to 0.116 s(-1) and 0.090 s(-1) respectively. Cellular respiration in the presence of glucose was found to be three times as rapid as that in glucose-deprived cells. Added NaCN inhibited O2 consumption completely, confirming that oxidation occurred in the cellular mitochondrial respiratory chain.