The rate of generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in hepatic microsomes was assayed using a fluorescent probe. This rate was stimulated in a manner proportional to the concentration of NADPH present. NADH could not be substituted for NADPH, and an inhibitor of mixed-function oxidases (SKF 525A) blocked stimulation by NADPH. This suggested the involvement of cytochrome P450 oxidase systems in ROS formation. Low molecular weight iron salts may not have been involved in the stimulated ROS formation since deferoxamine failed to eliminate the oxidative response to NADPH. Catalase only partially inhibited, and glutathione peroxidase did not significantly inhibit this response, implying that hydrogen peroxide does not play a key role. However, since NADPH-enhanced generation of reactive oxygen species was totally prevented by superoxide dismutase, superoxide was an obligatory intermediate. The presence of toluene, ethanol or phenobarbital did not enhance the production of NADPH-effected reactive oxygen species; free radical production was maximal in the absence of substrates subject to oxidation by cytochrome P450 enzymes. Hepatic cytochrome P450 oxidases are likely to contribute significantly to overall ROS formation, even under basal conditions where mixed-function oxidases are not induced.