NADPH oxidase activity in particulate fractions from human neutrophils stimulated with phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) or opsonized zymosan was enhanced by prior exposure of the neutrophils to chemotactic factors. Enhanced activity was seen measuring both NADPH-dependent chemiluminescence and superoxide anion production. Enhancement was observed to be both time and dose dependent with several chemotactic stimuli, including casein, N-formyl-methionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine (f-MLP), and C5a. F-MLP and C5a showed similar patterns, with peak enhancement occurring within 2 to 15 min of preincubation and lasting up to 1 hr. In contrast, enhancement of PMA-stimulated oxidase activity by casein was more gradual and sustained, lasting up to 2 hr. Fractions from cells treated only with chemotactic factors and not stimulated with PMA showed no oxidase activity. Kinetic studies of this enhanced activity show that chemotactic factors induce increases in Vmax values but do not significantly alter Km values for the oxidase. Further experiments using agents that modulate degranulation suggest that enzyme release is not involved in this enhancement. These data suggest that pretreatment with chemotactic factors results in an increase in the amount of activated oxidase in membrane fractions obtained from PMA-stimulated neutrophils. This alteration of NADPH oxidase activity provides a subcellular basis for the enhanced bactericidal activity and increased oxidative metabolism seen in neutrophils treated with chemotactic factors.