Human blood monocytes lose their capability to produce microbicidal oxidants during culture. We report that this process is associated with decreased gp91phox, p22phox and p47phox expression, release of PU.1 and CP-1 from gp91phox promoter, and PU.1 from p47phox promoter. However, in presence of IFN-gamma or TNF-alpha, the superoxide anion (O(2)(-)) production, the p47phox, gp91phox and p22phox expression, and the binding of PU.1 and CP-1 to DNA are maintained at the high levels observed in blood monocytes. To clarify the role of PU.1 in the expression of NADPH oxidase components, oligonucleotides competing for PU.1-DNA binding were added to cultured monocytes. These oligonucleotides abrogated the maintenance of gp91phox and p22phox expression by IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha, but did not inhibit the effect of these cytokines on p47phox expression and O(2)(-) production. Our results indicate that in monocytes the IFN-gamma- and TNF-alpha-induced expression of gp91phox and p22phox, but not p47phox, requires the binding of PU.1 to gp91phox promoter. However, the preservation of O(2)(-) production by IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha is unrelated to their effect on gp91phox and p22phox expression.