Oxidative Stress and Pathways of Molecular Hydrogen Effects in Medicine

Curr Pharm Des. 2021;27(5):610-625. doi: 10.2174/1381612826666200821114016.


There are many situations of excessive production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as radiation, ischemia/reperfusion (I/R), and inflammation. ROS contribute to and arises from numerous cellular pathologies, diseases, and aging. ROS can cause direct deleterious effects by damaging proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids as well as exert detrimental effects on several cell signaling pathways. However, ROS are important in many cellular functions. The injurious effect of excessive ROS can hypothetically be mitigated by exogenous antioxidants, but clinically this intervention is often not favorable. In contrast, molecular hydrogen provides a variety of advantages for mitigating oxidative stress due to its unique physical and chemical properties. H2 may be superior to conventional antioxidants, since it can selectively reduce ●OH radicals while preserving important ROS that are otherwise used for normal cellular signaling. Additionally, H2 exerts many biological effects, including antioxidation, anti-inflammation, anti-apoptosis, and anti-shock. H2 accomplishes these effects by indirectly regulating signal transduction and gene expression, each of which involves multiple signaling pathways and crosstalk. The Keap1-Nrf2-ARE signaling pathway, which can be activated by H2, plays a critical role in regulating cellular redox balance, metabolism, and inducing adaptive responses against cellular stress. H2 also influences the crosstalk among the regulatory mechanisms of autophagy and apoptosis, which involve MAPKs, p53, Nrf2, NF-κB, p38 MAPK, mTOR, etc. The pleiotropic effects of molecular hydrogen on various proteins, molecules and signaling pathways can at least partly explain its almost universal pluripotent therapeutic potential.

Keywords: MAPKs; Nrf2; Oxidative stress; autophagy; inflammation; molecular hydrogen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen
  • Kelch-Like ECH-Associated Protein 1
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2* / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism


  • Antioxidants
  • Kelch-Like ECH-Associated Protein 1
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Hydrogen