The NADPH-supported enzymatic reduction of molecular oxygen by ferredoxin-ferredoxin:NADP+ oxidoreductase was investigated. The ESR spin trapping technique was employed to identify the free radical metabolites of oxygen. The spin trap 5,5-dimethyl-1-pyrroline N-oxide (DMPO) was used to trap and identify the oxygen-derived free radicals. [17O]Oxygen was employed to demonstrate that the oxygen-centered radicals arose from molecular oxygen. From the data, the following scheme is proposed: (Formula:see text). The formation of the free hydroxyl radical during the reduction of oxygen was demonstrated with quantitative competition experiments. The hydroxyl radical abstracted hydrogen from ethanol or formate, and the resulting scavenger-derived free radical was trapped with known rate constants. If H2O2 was added to the enzymatic reaction, a stimulation of the production of the hydroxyl radical was obtained. This stimulation was manifested in both the concentration and the rate of formation of the DMPO/hydroxyl radical adduct. Catalase was shown to inhibit formation of the hydroxyl radical adduct, further supporting the formation of hydrogen peroxide as an intermediate during the reduction of oxygen. All three components, ferredoxin, ferredoxin:NADP+ oxidoreductase, and NADPH, were required for reduction. Ferredoxin:NADP+ oxidoreductase reduces ferredoxin, which in turn is responsible for the reduction of oxygen to hydrogen peroxide and ultimately the hydroxyl radical. The effect of transition metal chelators on the DMPO/hydroxyl radical adduct concentration suggests that the reduction of chelated iron by ferredoxin is responsible for the reduction of hydrogen peroxide to the hydroxyl radical via Fenton-type chemistry.