Mitochondrial biogenesis and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) maintenance depend on coordinated expression of genes in the nucleus and mitochondria. A variety of intracellular and extracellular signals transmitted by hormones and second messengers have to be integrated to provide mammalian cells with a suitable abundance of mitochondria and mtDNA to meet their energy demand. It has been proposed that reactive oxygen species (ROS) and free radicals generated from respiratory chain are involved in the signaling from mitochondria to the nucleus. Increased oxidative stress may contribute to alterations in the abundance of mitochondria as well as the copy number and integrity of mtDNA in human cells in pathological conditions and in aging process. Within a certain level, ROS may induce stress responses by altering expression of specific nuclear genes to uphold the energy metabolism to rescue the cell. Once beyond the threshold, ROS may cause oxidative damage to mtDNA and other components of the affected cells and to elicit apoptosis by induction of mitochondrial membrane permeability transition and release of pro-apoptotic proteins such as cytochrome c. On the basis of recent findings gathered from this and other laboratories, we review the alterations in the abundance of mitochondria and mtDNA copy number of mammalian cells in response to oxidative stress and the signaling pathways that are involved.