Neutrophil polymorphonuclear leucocytes kill bacteria by oxygen-dependent and oxygen-independent mechanisms. Many potentially toxic mechanisms have been described, but the complexity of the phagosomal environment and the synergy between oxidative and non-oxidative systems hamper the investigation of individual bactericidal mechanism in whole cells. Neutrophil cytoplasts are greatly depleted of granule proteins and permit the investigation of the bactericidal effects of the respiratory burst in isolation. In this study they have been used to examine the role of the respiratory burst and myeloperoxidase in oxygen-dependent killing of Staphylococcus aureus. Cytoplasts generated oxygen radicals at comparable rates to human neutrophils and phagocytosed but did not kill S. aureus. The selective reconstitution of the myeloperoxidase-hydrogen peroxide-halide system by coating bacteria with myeloperoxidase conferred on cytoplasts the ability to kill intracellular bacteria. However, extracellular killing by diffusible bactericidal factors was not detected in this system.