Metabolic gradients exist in developing organisms and are believed to influence development. It has been postulated that the effects of these gradients on development result from differential oxygen supplies to tissues. Oxygen has been found to influence the course of development. Cells and tissues in various stages of differentiation exhibit discrete changes in their antioxidant defenses and in parameters of oxidation. Metabolically generated oxidants have been implicated as one factor that directs the initiation of certain developmental events. Also implicated as factors that modulate developmental processes are the cellular distribution of ions and the cytoskeleton both of which can be influenced by oxidants. The interaction of oxidants with ion balance and cytoskeleton is discussed.