In recent years, the study of oxidative stress (OS) has become increasingly popular. In particular, the role of OS on female fertility is very important and has been focused on closely. The occurrence of OS is due to the excessive production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS are a double-edged sword; they not only play an important role as secondary messengers in many intracellular signaling cascades, but they also exert indispensable effects on pathological processes involving the female genital tract. ROS and antioxidants join in the regulation of reproductive processes in both animals and humans. Imbalances between pro-oxidants and antioxidants could lead to a number of female reproductive diseases. This review focuses on the mechanism of OS and a series of female reproductive processes, explaining the role of OS in female reproduction and female reproductive diseases caused by OS, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, preeclampsia and so on. Many signaling pathways involved in female reproduction, including the Keap1-Nrf2, NF-κB, FOXO and MAPK pathways, which are affected by OS, are described, providing new ideas for the mechanism of reproductive diseases.
Keywords: Antioxidants; Female fertility; Imbalance; Oxidative stress; ROS; Reproductive diseases; Signaling pathways.