Principles in redox signaling: from chemistry to functional significance

Antioxid Redox Signal. 2013 May 1;18(13):1557-93. doi: 10.1089/ars.2012.4655. Epub 2013 Feb 19.


Reactive oxygen and nitrogen species are currently considered not only harmful byproducts of aerobic respiration but also critical mediators of redox signaling. The molecules and the chemical principles sustaining the network of cellular redox regulated processes are described. Special emphasis is placed on hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)), now considered as acting as a second messenger, and on sulfhydryl groups, which are the direct targets of the oxidant signal. Cysteine residues of some proteins, therefore, act as sensors of redox conditions and are oxidized in a reversible reaction. In particular, the formation of sulfenic acid and disulfide, the initial steps of thiol oxidation, are described in detail. The many cell pathways involved in reactive oxygen species formation are reported. Central to redox signaling processes are the glutathione and thioredoxin systems controlling H(2)O(2) levels and, hence, the thiol/disulfide balance. Lastly, some of the most important redox-regulated processes involving specific enzymes and organelles are described. The redox signaling area of research is rapidly expanding, and future work will examine new pathways and clarify their importance in cellular pathophysiology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Oxidation-Reduction*
  • Peroxides / metabolism
  • Reactive Nitrogen Species / metabolism
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Thioredoxins / metabolism


  • Peroxides
  • Reactive Nitrogen Species
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Thioredoxins