The NADPH oxidase complex of neutrophils and macrophages is an important weapon used by these cells to kill microbial pathogens. The regulation of this enzyme complex is necessarily complicated by the diverse receptor types that are needed to trigger its activation and also the tight control that is required to deliver this activation at the appropriate time and place. As such, several signalling pathways have been established to regulate the NADPH oxidase downstream of cell surface receptors. Central amongst these are PI3K- (phosphoinositide 3-kinase)-dependent pathways, blockade of which severely limits activation of the oxidase to several soluble and particulate stimuli. The precise roles of the phosphoinositide products of PI3K activity in regulating NADPH oxidase assembly and activation are still unclear, but there is emerging evidence that they play a key role via regulation of guanine nucleotide exchange on Rac, a key component in the oxidase complex. There is also very strong evidence that the PI3K products PtdIns(3,4)P2 and PtdIns3P can bind directly to the PX (Phox homology) domains of the core oxidase components p47phox and p40phox respectively. However, the significance of these interactions in terms of membrane localization or allosteric consequences for the oxidase complex remains to be established.

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Author notes

The Biochemical Society's Annual Symposium, The Cell Biology of Inositol Lipids and Phosphates, was held at the University of Birmingham on 29-31 March 2006.