Oxidative stress-the production and accumulation of reduced oxygen intermediates such as superoxide radicals, singlet oxygen, hydrogen peroxide, and hydroxyl radicals-can damage lipids, proteins, and DNA. Many disease processes of clinical interest and the aging process involve oxidative stress in their underlying etiology. The production of reactive oxygen species is also prevalent in the world's oceans, and oxidative stress is an important component of the stress response in marine organisms exposed to a variety of insults as a result of changes in environmental conditions such as thermal stress, exposure to ultraviolet radiation, or exposure to pollution. As in the clinical setting, reactive oxygen species are also important signal transduction molecules and mediators of damage in cellular processes, such as apoptosis and cell necrosis, for marine organisms. This review brings together the voluminous literature on the biochemistry and physiology of oxidative stress from the clinical and plant physiology disciplines with the fast-increasing interest in oxidative stress in marine environments.