This study describes a simple, reliable, highly sensitive and quantitative fluorescence microplate-assay of H2O2 from activated leukocytes using a novel horse radish peroxidase (HRP) substrate N-acetyl-3,7-dihydroxyphenoxazine (A6550). Unlike the widely used fluorescent HRP substrate scopoletin, A6550 is non-fluorescent and becomes highly fluorescent upon HRP-catalyzed H2O2 oxidation. Using 50 microM A6550, the change in fluorescence due to H2O2 generated from phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate-activated human eosinophils and neutrophils is found to have a linear cell dose response up to 1.5 x 10(4) and 5 x 10(4) cells, respectively. The increase in fluorescence from A6550 is specifically due to H2O2 generation since it is inhibitable by catalase. Oxidized A6550 is found to be highly stable and the H2O2 dose response is linear as long as the ratio of A6550:H2O2 in the reaction mixture is higher than five. Unlike scopoletin, A6550 has a very low background, which changes little with time. In addition, the high fluorescent yield of oxidized A6550 results in an increased sensitivity for the detection of H2O2. When the concentrations of A6550 and HRP were 10 microM and 0.2 U/ml, respectively, as low as 2 pmol of H2O2 could be reliably measured. The sensitivity of A6550/H2O2 assay is found to be at least 10-fold higher than with scopoletin as the HRP substrate. The protocol described in this study using A6550 to measure H2O2 release from activated granulocytes can be easily adapted to other cell types which generate H2O2.