Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are generated as by-products of cellular metabolism, primarily in the mitochondria. When cellular production of ROS overwhelms its antioxidant capacity, damage to cellular macromolecules such as lipids, protein, and DNA may ensue. Such a state of "oxidative stress" is thought to contribute to the pathogenesis of a number of human diseases including those of the lung. Recent studies have also implicated ROS that are generated by specialized plasma membrane oxidases in normal physiological signaling by growth factors and cytokines. In this review, we examine the evidence for ligand-induced generation of ROS, its cellular sources, and the signaling pathways that are activated. Emerging concepts on the mechanisms of signal transduction by ROS that involve alterations in cellular redox state and oxidative modifications of proteins are also discussed.