The role of magnesium ions in the activation of NADPH oxidase has been investigated using flavocytochrome b-245 and either neutrophil cytosol or mixtures of recombinant p40phox, p47phox, p67phox and Rac2. Purified flavocytochrome b-245 is highly active (turnover number 120–150 mol of O2-/s per mol of cytochrome haem) in the absence of Mg2+, in marked contrast to neutrophil membranes or detergent-solubilized membranes, which have an absolute requirement for Mg2+ for NADPH oxidase activity. It was also found that Mg2+ affected the anionic amphiphile requirement for oxidase activation, and this was dependent on whether neutrophil cytosol or mixtures of recombinant cytosolic proteins were used in the assay. Unexpectedly we found that, using purified flavocytochrome b-245 and recombinant cytosolic proteins, NADPH oxidase undergoes spontaneous activation in the absence of anionic amphiphiles under Mg2+-free conditions. The results suggest that Mg2+ ions play an important role in NADPH oxidase function, perhaps stabilizing the 260 kDa complex of cytosolic phox proteins or the regulation of a guanine nucleotide-binding protein. We provide evidence that if the latter explanation is correct, the identity of the guanine nucleotide-binding protein is unlikely to be Rap1a.

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