Free radicals and other oxidants have gained importance in the field of biology due to their central role in various physiological conditions as well as their implication in a diverse range of diseases. The free radicals, both the reactive oxygen species (ROS) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS), are derived from both endogenous sources (mitochondria, peroxisomes, endoplasmic reticulum, phagocytic cells etc.) and exogenous sources (pollution, alcohol, tobacco smoke, heavy metals, transition metals, industrial solvents, pesticides, certain drugs like halothane, paracetamol, and radiation). Free radicals can adversely affect various important classes of biological molecules such as nucleic acids, lipids, and proteins, thereby altering the normal redox status leading to increased oxidative stress. The free radicals induced oxidative stress has been reported to be involved in several diseased conditions such as diabetes mellitus, neurodegenerative disorders (Parkinson's disease-PD, Alzheimer's disease-AD and Multiple sclerosis-MS), cardiovascular diseases (atherosclerosis and hypertension), respiratory diseases (asthma), cataract development, rheumatoid arthritis and in various cancers (colorectal, prostate, breast, lung, bladder cancers). This review deals with chemistry, formation and sources, and molecular targets of free radicals and it provides a brief overview on the pathogenesis of various diseased conditions caused by ROS/RNS.
Keywords: Free radicals; Oxidative stress; Reactive nitrogen species (RNS); Reactive oxygen species (ROS).