Present knowledge on peroxiredoxins is reviewed with special emphasis on catalytic principles, specificities and biological function. Peroxiredoxins are low efficiency peroxidases using thiols as reductants. They appear to be fairly promiscuous with respect to the hydroperoxide substrate; the specificities for the donor substrate vary considerably between the subfamilies, comprising GSH, thioredoxin, tryparedoxin and the analogous CXXC motifs in bacterial AhpF proteins. Peroxiredoxins are definitely responsible for antioxidant defense in bacteria (AhpC), yeast (thioredoxin peroxidase) and trypanosomatids (tryparedoxin peroxidase). They are considered to determine virulence of mycobacteria and trypanosomatids. In higher plants they are involved in balancing hydroperoxide production during photosynthesis. In higher animals peroxiredoxins appear to be involved in the redox-regulation of cellular signaling and differentiation, displaying in part opposite effects.