Oxidative stress plays an important role in the pathophysiology of vascular diseases. Reactive oxygen species, especially superoxide anion and hydrogen peroxide, are important signalling molecules in cardiovascular cells. Enhanced superoxide production increases nitric oxide inactivation and leads to an accumulation of peroxynitrites and hydrogen peroxide. Reactive oxygen species participate in growth, apoptosis and migration of vascular smooth muscle cells, in the modulation of endothelial function, including endothelium-dependent relaxation and expression of proinflammatory phenotype, and in the modification of the extracellular matrix. All these events play important roles in vascular diseases such as hypertension, suggesting that the sources of reactive oxygen species and the signalling pathways that they modify may represent important therapeutic targets. Potential sources of vascular superoxide production include NADPH-dependent oxidases, xanthine oxidases, lipoxygenases, mitochondrial oxidases and nitric oxide synthases. Studies performed during the last decade have shown that NADPH oxidase is the most important source of superoxide anion in phagocytic and vascular cells. Evidence from experimental animal and human studies suggests a significant role of NADPH oxidase activation in the vascular remodelling and endothelial dysfunction found in cardiovascular diseases.