Reactive oxygen species (ROS) as pleiotropic physiological signalling agents.

TitleReactive oxygen species (ROS) as pleiotropic physiological signalling agents.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsSies, H, Jones, DP
JournalNat Rev Mol Cell Biol
Date Published2020 Mar 30

'Reactive oxygen species' (ROS) is an umbrella term for an array of derivatives of molecular oxygen that occur as a normal attribute of aerobic life. Elevated formation of the different ROS leads to molecular damage, denoted as 'oxidative distress'. Here we focus on ROS at physiological levels and their central role in redox signalling via different post-translational modifications, denoted as 'oxidative eustress'. Two species, hydrogen peroxide (HO) and the superoxide anion radical (O), are key redox signalling agents generated under the control of growth factors and cytokines by more than 40 enzymes, prominently including NADPH oxidases and the mitochondrial electron transport chain. At the low physiological levels in the nanomolar range, HO is the major agent signalling through specific protein targets, which engage in metabolic regulation and stress responses to support cellular adaptation to a changing environment and stress. In addition, several other reactive species are involved in redox signalling, for instance nitric oxide, hydrogen sulfide and oxidized lipids. Recent methodological advances permit the assessment of molecular interactions of specific ROS molecules with specific targets in redox signalling pathways. Accordingly, major advances have occurred in understanding the role of these oxidants in physiology and disease, including the nervous, cardiovascular and immune systems, skeletal muscle and metabolic regulation as well as ageing and cancer. In the past, unspecific elimination of ROS by use of low molecular mass antioxidant compounds was not successful in counteracting disease initiation and progression in clinical trials. However, controlling specific ROS-mediated signalling pathways by selective targeting offers a perspective for a future of more refined redox medicine. This includes enzymatic defence systems such as those controlled by the stress-response transcription factors NRF2 and nuclear factor-κB, the role of trace elements such as selenium, the use of redox drugs and the modulation of environmental factors collectively known as the exposome (for example, nutrition, lifestyle and irradiation).

Alternate JournalNat. Rev. Mol. Cell Biol.
Citation Key10.1038/s41580-020-0230-3
PubMed ID32231263