The generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by the reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase complex plays a critical role in the antimicrobial functions of the phagocytic cells of the immune system. The catalytic core of this oxidase consists of a complex between gp91(phox), p22(phox), p47(phox), p67(phox), p40(phox), and rac-2. Mutations in each of the phox components, except p40(phox), have been described in cases of chronic granulomatous disease (CGD), defining their essential role in oxidase function. We sought to establish the role of p40(phox) by investigating the NADPH oxidase responses of neutrophils isolated from p40(phox-/-) mice. In the absence of p40(phox), the expression of p67(phox) is reduced by approximately 55% and oxidase responses to tumor necrosis factor alpha/fibrinogen, immunoglobulin G latex beads, Staphylococcus aureus, formyl-methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine, and zymosan were reduced by approximately 97, 85, 84, 75, and 30%, respectively. The defect in ROS production by p40(phox-/-) neutrophils in response to S. aureus translated into a severe, CGD-like defect in the killing of this organism both in vitro and in vivo, defining p40(phox) as an essential component in bacterial killing.
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