A strategy for elucidating specific molecular targets of calcium and calmodulin in plant defense responses has been developed. We have used a dominant-acting calmodulin mutant (VU-3, Lys to Arg115) to investigate the oxidative burst and nicotinamide co-enzyme fluxes after various stimuli (cellulase, harpin, incompatible bacteria, osmotic and mechanical) that elicit plant defense responses in transgenic tobacco cell cultures. VU-3 calmodulin differs from endogenous plant calmodulin in that it cannot be methylated post-translationally, and as a result it hyperactivates calmodulin-dependent NAD kinase. Cells expressing VU-3 calmodulin exhibited a stronger active oxygen burst that occurred more rapidly than in normal control cells challenged with the same stimuli. Increases in NADPH level were also greater in VU-3 cells and coincided both in timing and magnitude with development of the active oxygen species (AOS) burst. These data show that calmodulin is a target of calcium fluxes in response to elicitor or environmental stress, and provide the first evidence that plant NAD kinase may be a downstream target which potentiates AOS production by altering NAD(H)/NADP(H) homeostasis.