Free Radicals as Mediators of Tissue Injury and Disease

Crit Rev Toxicol. 1993;23(1):21-48. doi: 10.3109/10408449309104073.


A radical is any molecule that contains one or more unpaired electrons. Radicals are normally generated in many metabolic pathways. Some of these radicals can exist in a free form and subsequently interact with various tissue components resulting in dysfunction. The potential role of oxygen- or xenobiotic-derived free radicals in the pathology of several human diseases has stimulated extensive research linking the toxicity of numerous xenobiotics and disease processes to a free radical mechanism. However, because free radical-mediated changes are pervasive and often poorly understood, the question of whether such species are a major cause of tissue injury and human disease remains equivocal. This review discusses cellular sources of various radical species and their reactions with vital cellular constituents. Examples of purported free radical-mediated disorders are discussed in detail to provide insights into the controversy over whether free radicals are important mediators of tissue injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arteriosclerosis / metabolism
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / metabolism
  • Disease*
  • Free Radicals* / adverse effects
  • Free Radicals* / metabolism
  • Free Radicals* / toxicity
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Reperfusion Injury / metabolism


  • Free Radicals