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Cell Death Dis. 2011 Oct 6;2:e213. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2011.96.

Hydrogen peroxide: a Jekyll and Hyde signalling molecule.

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Tumour Biology Laboratory, Biochemistry Department, Bioscience Research Institute, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland.


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are a group of molecules produced in the cell through metabolism of oxygen. Endogenous ROS such as hydrogen peroxide (H₂O₂) have long been recognised as destructive molecules. The well-established roles they have in the phagosome and genomic instability has led to the characterisation of these molecules as non-specific agents of destruction. Interestingly, there is a growing body of literature suggesting a less sinister role for this Jekyll and Hyde molecule. It is now evident that at lower physiological levels, H₂O₂ can act as a classical intracellular signalling molecule regulating kinase-driven pathways. The newly discovered biological functions attributed to ROS include proliferation, migration, anoikis, survival and autophagy. Furthermore, recent advances in detection and quantification of ROS-family members have revealed that the diverse functions of ROS can be determined by the subcellular source, location and duration of these molecules within the cell. In light of this confounding paradox, we will examine the factors and circumstances that determine whether H₂O₂ acts in a pro-survival or deleterious manner.

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