Nature Reviews Immunology 13, 349-361 (May 2013) | doi:10.1038/nri3423

Beyond oxidative stress: an immunologist's guide to reactive oxygen species

Carl Nathan1,2 & Amy Cunningham-Bussel1,2  About the authors


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) react preferentially with certain atoms to modulate functions ranging from cell homeostasis to cell death. Molecular actions include both inhibition and activation of proteins, mutagenesis of DNA and activation of gene transcription. Cellular actions include promotion or suppression of inflammation, immunity and carcinogenesis. ROS help the host to compete against microorganisms and are also involved in intermicrobial competition. ROS chemistry and their pleiotropy make them difficult to localize, to quantify and to manipulate — challenges we must overcome to translate ROS biology into medical advances.

Author affiliations

  1. Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University, New York, New York 10065, USA.
  2. Graduate programme in Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis, Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Cornell University, New York, New York 10065, USA.

Correspondence to: Carl Nathan1,2 Email:

Published online 25 April 2013