Superoxide is produced by a NADPH oxidase of phagocytic cells and contributes to their microbicidal activities. The oxidase is activated when receptors in the neutrophil plasma membrane bind to the target microbe. These receptors recognise antibodies and complement fragments which coat the target cell. The oxidase electron transport chain, located in the plasma membrane, comprises a low potential cytochrome b heterodimer (gp 91-phox and p22-phox) associated with FAD. It is non-functional until at least three proteins, p67-phox, p47-phox and p21rac (and possibly others), move from the cytosol to dock on the cytochrome b. The docking involves the interaction of SH3 domains on p47-phox or p67-phox with a proline-rich sequence on the small subunit of the cytochrome b. These SH3 domains may become exposed following phosphorylation of p47-phox by protein kinase C or, in model systems, by addition of arachidonic acid to reconstitution mixtures. Following the docking process the electron-transporting component is able to transfer electrons from NADPH to oxygen. This electrogenic event is charge-compensated by the opening of a proton channel. Components of the oxidase are expressed in non-phagocytes, where their function is uncertain but could be related to some signal function of superoxide.