The purpose of this study was to quantify the effects of extracellularly generated partially reduced oxygen species on active sodium (NA+) transport across the ventral toad skin, a well-studied epithelium. Sections of skin from decapitated toads were mounted in an Ussing chamber, bathed on both sides with electrolyte solution containing 500 μM xanthine and bubbled continuously with room air. The tissues were short-circuited, and short circuit current (Isc) and tissue resistance (Rt were monitored continuously with an automatic voltage clamp apparatus. Fifteen mU/ml of xanthine oxidase (XO), either purchased from Calbiochem or purified from cream, were instilled in either the apical (mucosal) or basolateral (serosal) baths at t = 0 and t = 10 min. Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) concentrations increased to 200 μM within the first 20 min and then decreased, reaching a value of 40 μM by 60 min. Mean [H2O2] was 90 μM. Instillation of XO in the apical bath resulted in a large decrease in Isc and an increase in Rt, their values being 43% and 160% of their corresponding controls 85 min after the first instillation. Addition of superoxide dismutase and catalase completely prevented these changes. Instillation of XO in the basolateral bath had no effect. Similar physiological responses were obtained using the Calbiochem XO or the purified XO, which contained no measurable protease activity. It was concluded that extracellularly generated partially reduced oxygen species may interfere with active Na+ transport by possibly damaging apical Na+ channel proteins. © 1989.