Since their discovery as a substrate for ribonucleotide reductase (RNR), the role of thioredoxin (Trx) and glutaredoxin (Grx) has been largely extended through their regulatory function. Both proteins act by changing the structure and activity of a broad spectrum of target proteins, typically by modifying redox status. Trx and Grx are members of families with multiple and partially redundant genes. The number of genes clearly increased with the appearance of multicellular organisms, in part because of new types of Trx and Grx with orthologs throughout the animal and plant kingdoms. The function of Trx and Grx also broadened as cells achieved increased complexity, especially in the regulation arena. In view of these progressive changes, the ubiquitous distribution of Trx and the wide occurrence of Grx enable these proteins to serve as indicators of the evolutionary history of redox regulation. In so doing, they add a unifying element that links the diverse forms of life to one another in an uninterrupted continuum. It is anticipated that future research will embellish this continuum and further elucidate the properties of these proteins and their impact on biology. The new information will be important not only to our understanding of the role of Trx and Grx in fundamental cell processes but also to future societal benefits as the proteins find new applications in a range of fields.