The redox center of the phagocyte NADPH oxidase is flavocytochrome b558, a transmembrane protein with two subunits, gp91(phox) and p22(phox). In this study we investigated the identity, subcellular localization, and maturation of a putative 65-kDa gp91(phox) precursor (p65). Expressing the gp91(phox) cDNA in an in vitro transcription and translation system, we found that synthesis of p65 required endoplasmic reticulum (ER) microsomes. Sucrose density gradient centrifugation of postnuclear supernatants obtained from a PLB-985 derived cell line with a constitutively expressed gp91(phox) transgene demonstrated that p65 co-sedimented with the ER marker protein calreticulin and myeloperoxidase precursors. Unexpectedly, the majority of p22(phox) was found in subcellular compartments containing the mature 91-kDa form of gp91(phox) and not with p65, suggesting that heterodimer formation may occur in a post-ER compartment. The heme synthesis inhibitor, succinyl acetone, reduced the abundance of mature gp91(phox) and p22(phox) but had little or no impact on p65. These studies demonstrate (a) gp91(phox) is synthesized as a glycosylated 65-kDa precursor in the ER, (b) heterodimer formation is not a co-translational process, and (c) heme insertion is a determinant in the formation of a stable heterodimer but does not appear to affect the stability of p65.