Iron mobilized from ferritin has been shown to catalyze production of potent reactive oxygen intermediates. Experiments were carried out to evaluate the ability of ferritin to catalyze nuclear generation of hydroxyl radical in the presence of either NADPH or NADH. In the absence of redox cycling agents, ferritin did not catalyze nuclear oxidation of hydroxyl radical scavenging agents (2-keto-4-thiomethylbutyric acid, dimethylsulfoxide, ethanol) even if EDTA was added to chelate any released iron. The addition of menadione or paraquat resulted in a ferritin-dependent oxidation of chemical scavengers; menadione promoted the catalysis by ferritin with either NADPH or NADH, whereas paraquat was much more reactive with NADPH as the nuclear reductant. The presence of an externally added iron chelator was required for elevated rates of scavenger oxidation, with EDTA and DTPA being more reactive than ATP or citrate and desferrioxamine being inhibitory. The ferritin-catalyzed hydroxyl radical scavenger oxidation was sensitive to superoxide dismutase, catalase, and competitive scavengers. In the absence or presence of ferritin, rates of NADPH- or NADH-dependent H2O2 production were low: Menadione increased H2O2 production with both NADPH and NADH, whereas paraquat was mostly effective with NADPH. Depending on the nature of the added chelating agent (e.g., EDTA, ATP) and the reductant, rates of nuclear production of ·OH in the presence of redox cycling agent plus ferritin were 10 to 70% as high as rates found with redox cycling agent plus ferric-chelate (e.g., ferric-EDTA, ferric-ATP). Since reactive oxygen intermediates such as the hydroxyl radical can alter the structural integrity of the nucleus and interact with DNA, the ability of ferritin to promote nuclear generation of hydroxyl radical may play a role in the toxicity associated with iron as well as redox cycling agents.