Transition metal ions, especially iron, appear to be important mediators of oxidative damage in vivo. Iron(II) reacts with H2O2 to give more-reactive radicals. On the basis of ESR spin-trapping data with DMPO, supported by aromatic hydroxylation studies and patterns of DNA base modification, it is concluded that hydroxyl radical (OH.) is likely to be the major damaging species formed in Fenton Systems under biologically-relevant conditions (which include iron concentrations no higher than the micromolar range). Although reactive oxo-iron species (such as ferryl and perferryl) may also be important, direct chemical evidence for their formation and identity in biologically relevant Fenton systems is currently lacking. Studies at alkaline pH values show that iron(IV) and iron(V) species are highly oxidizing under those reaction conditions, with a pattern of reactivity different from that of OH..