Signaling functions of reactive oxygen species

Biochemistry. 2010 Feb 9;49(5):835-42. doi: 10.1021/bi9020378.


We review signaling by reactive oxygen species, which is emerging as a major physiological process. However, among the reactive oxygen species, H(2)O(2) best fulfills the requirements of being a second messenger. Its enzymatic production and degradation, along with the requirements for the oxidation of thiols by H(2)O(2), provide the specificity for time and place that are required in signaling. Both thermodynamic and kinetic considerations suggest that among possible oxidation states of cysteine, formation of sulfenic acid derivatives or disulfides can be relevant as thiol redox switches in signaling. In this work, the general constraints that are required for protein thiol oxidation by H(2)O(2) to be fast enough to be relevant for signaling are discussed in light of the mechanism of oxidation of the catalytic cysteine or selenocysteine in thiol peroxidases. While the nonenzymatic reaction between thiol and H(2)O(2) is, in most cases, too slow to be relevant in signaling, the enzymatic catalysis of thiol oxidation by these peroxidases provides a potential mechanism for redox signaling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cysteine / analogs & derivatives
  • Cysteine / chemistry
  • Cysteine / metabolism
  • Cysteine / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / chemistry
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / metabolism
  • Peroxiredoxins / chemistry
  • Peroxiredoxins / metabolism
  • Peroxiredoxins / physiology
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / chemistry*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Second Messenger Systems / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Peroxiredoxins
  • Cysteine
  • cysteine sulfinic acid