Exposure of certain cell types to bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) leads to activation of nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kappa B), an inducible transcription factor. One of NF-kappa B's unique properties is its posttranslational activation via release of an inhibitory subunit, called inhibitor of NF-kappa B (I kappa B), from a sequestered cytoplasmic form. This event is also triggered under various other conditions of biomedical importance. Other bacterial toxins, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF), interleukin-1 (IL-1), T cell mitogens, UV light, gamma rays and oxidative stress were reported to induce NF-kappa B. The activated form of NF-kappa B, which is rapidly taken up into nuclei, initiates transcription from immediate early genes in a wide variety of cell types. Most of the target genes for NF-kappa B are of relevance for the immune response and can be grouped into those encoding cytokines, cell surface receptors, acute phase proteins and viral genomes, such as that of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1). We will discuss recent experimental evidences suggesting that LPS might share a pathway of NF-kappa B activation with other inducers of the factor. This common pathway may involve reactive oxygen intermediates (ROI) as messenger molecules.