Measurement of respiratory burst products, released or retained, during activation of professional phagocytes

Methods Mol Biol. 2014;1124:321-38. doi: 10.1007/978-1-62703-845-4_21.


Activation of professional phagocytes, potent microbial killers of our innate immune system, is associated with an increase in cellular consumption of molecular oxygen (O2). The consumed O2 is utilized by an NADPH-oxidase to generate highly reactive oxygen species (ROS) by a one electron reduction, initially generating superoxide anion (O2 (-)) that then dismutates to hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). The ROS are strongly bactericidal molecules but may also cause tissue destruction, and are capable of driving immune competent cells of both the innate and the adaptive immune systems into apoptosis. The development of basic techniques to measure/quantify ROS generation by phagocytes during activation of the respiratory burst is of great importance, and a large number of methods have been used for this purpose. A selection of methods, including chemiluminescence amplified by luminol or isoluminol, the absorbance change following reduction of cytochrome c, and the fluorescence increase upon oxidation of PHPA, are described in detail in this chapter with special emphasis on how to distinguish between ROS that are released extracellularly, and those that are retained within intracellular organelles. These techniques can be valuable tools in research spanning from basic phagocyte biology to more clinically oriented research on innate immune mechanisms and inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Extracellular Space / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Space
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Phagocytes / physiology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Respiratory Burst / physiology*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species