Aerobic life requires organisms to resist the damaging effects of ROS (reactive oxygen species), particularly during stress. Extensive research has established a detailed picture of how cells respond to oxidative stress. Attention is now focusing on identifying the key molecular targets of ROS, which cause killing when resistance is overwhelmed. Experimental criteria used to establish such targets have differing merits. Depending on the nature of the stress, ROS cause loss of essential cellular functions or gain of toxic functions. Essential targets on which life pivots during ROS stress include membrane lipid integrity and activity of ROS-susceptible proteins, including proteins required for faithful translation of mRNA. Protein oxidation also triggers accumulation of toxic protein aggregates or induction of apoptotic cell death. This burgeoning understanding of the principal ROS targets will offer new possibilities for therapy of ROS related diseases.

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