The potential of xanthine oxidoreductase to generate oxygen radicals depends on the ratio of xanthine dehydrogenase and xanthine oxidase. Previous studies showed that the lipid peroxidation products, malondialdehyde and 4-hydroxynonenal have different effects on xanthine oxidoreductase activity. These results suggest that the activity of xanthine oxidase, but not xanthine dehydrogenase, is influenced by NH2-group modulation. We therefore investigated the influence of malondialdehyde on xanthine oxidoreductase. Malondialdehyde reacted with NH2-groups to form Schiff bases, and this reaction was associated with inhibition of xanthine oxidase; SH-groups were not affected. Malondialdehyde had no influence on the xanthine dehydrogenase activity. The inhibited xanthine oxidase was converted to an active xanthine dehydrogenase by dithiothreitol treatment. These experiments indicate the importance of NH2-groups for xanthine oxidase but not for xanthine dehydrogenase activity. Beside the well known regulation of the xanthine dehydrogenase/xanthine oxidase ratio by the redox status of SH-groups, substances reacting with NH2-groups of the xanthine oxidoreductase are also able to change the xanthine dehydrogenase/xanthine oxidase activity ratio, thereby influencing the potential to generate oxygen radicals by xanthine oxidoreductase.