The effect of nicotinamide and flavin coenzymes on the 5-lipoxygenase activity has been determined in cell-free extracts from rat polymorphonuclear leukocytes. 5-lipoxygenase was assayed in the presence of 5-hydroperoxyeicosatetraenoic acid (5-HPETE), which caused a 3 to 4-fold stimulation in the maximal conversion of radiolabeled arachidonic acid to 5-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (5-HETE) and 5,12-dihydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (5,12-di-HETE). Addition of FMN or FAD to the assay mixture had little effect on the 5-lipoxygenase activity and caused inhibition only at high concentrations (IC50 greater than 100 microM). NADH markedly potentiated the inhibition of lipoxygenase by flavins with a 100-fold decrease in the FMN concentration required to inhibit the enzyme (IC50 approximately equal to 2 microM). Similar effects were observed for FAD although this flavin derivative was slightly less potent than FMN (IC50 congruent to 10 microM). NADH could be substituted by NADPH but not by NAD or NADP, indicating that the inhibition was not due to the production of the oxidized forms of these co-factors. These results show that the 5-lipoxygenase activity is stimulated by 5-HPETE and inhibited by flavin-dependent redox transformations.