Reactive oxygen species: A radical role in development?

Free Radic Biol Med. 2010 Jul 15;49(2):130-43. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2010.03.020. Epub 2010 Mar 29.


Reactive oxygen species (ROS), mostly derived from mitochondrial activity, can damage various macromolecules and consequently cause cell death. This ROS activity has been characterized in vitro, and correlative evidence suggests a role in various pathological conditions. In addition to this passive ROS activity, ROS also participate in cell signaling processes, though the relevance of this function in vivo is poorly understood. Throughout development, elevated cell activity is probably accompanied by highly active metabolism and, consequently, the production of large amounts of ROS. To allow proper development, cells must protect themselves from these potentially damaging ROS. However, to what degree ROS could participate as signaling molecules controlling fundamental and developmentally relevant cellular processes such as proliferation, differentiation, and death is an open question. Here we discuss why available data do not yet provide conclusive evidence on the role of ROS in development, and we review recent methods to detect ROS in vivo and genetic strategies that can be exploited specifically to resolve these uncertainties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Cell Death
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Fetal Development*
  • Humans
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Molecular Probes / genetics
  • Molecular Probes / metabolism*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Antioxidants
  • Molecular Probes
  • Reactive Oxygen Species