ADVERSE EFFECTS OF OXYGEN: Adverse effect of oxygen on anaerobes implies oxidation of the basic cell constituents NAD(P)H, thiols, iron-sulphur proteins, pteridines and others) and inactivation of the essential components of the active site of enzymes. Oxygen can also adversely affect the aerobes, especially if long-term influence is taken into consideration, while exposition to high-pressure oxygen causes considerable damages. Direct influence of oxygen on aerobes due to slow and limited enzyme inactivation (for example glutamate decarboxylase) and small number of affected "targets" is not responsible for total adverse effects of oxygen. Even in 1954 it was supposed that oxygen free radicals are the most responsible for the adverse effects of oxygen. ATMOSPHERIC (TRIPLET) OXYGEN: Electron configuration of triplet oxygen explains its reactivity since it is a biradical. The reactions of oxygen with non-radicals are possible with participation of transition metals (except zinc), while its reactivity is much more expressed in case of reactions with other radical species. ACTIVE OXYGEN: More reactive forms of oxygen, known as singlet oxygen, can be generated by an input of energy to triplet oxygen. Singlet-oxygen is obtained mainly by photoexcitation in the presence of initiators (methylene blue, chlorophyll etc.) and as a product of reactions of ozone with certain biomolecules. REDUCED FORMS OF OXYGEN: If a single electron is added to the triplet oxygen, it must enter one of the antibonding molecular orbitals and produce the superoxide radical--(O2.-). Addition of one more electron produces peroxide ion--O2(2-), which forms hydro peroxide in presence of H+, the most common two-electron reduction product of oxygen in biological systems. The four-reduction product of oxygen in biological systems is water. SUPEROXIDE RADICAL: The in vivo production of superoxide radical is possible in many different ways mentioned in this paper. This radical species is unstable in water solutions because of dismutation reaction leading to non-enzymic generation of hydroperoxide. The most reactive radical species--hydroxyl radical is produced from hydro peroxide by Fenton or Haber-Weiss reactions in the presence of catalytic transition metals (iron or copper). HYDROXYL RADICAL: Hydroxyl radicals are the most reactive radical species. The way of their generation has been shown in detail in this paper with special emphasis given to Fenton and Haber-Weiss reactions, that is, transition metals (iron and copper) as catalizators for these reactions. The reactivity of hydroxyl radical can be recognized by monitoring the second-order rate constants for reactions of the hydroxyl radical with some organic compounds in aqueous solution presented in this paper. Although the number of compounds that can be affected and damaged by hydroxyl radicals is great, until now, attention has been paid mostly to investigation of attacks of these radical species on lipids, proteins and DNA. LIPID PEROXIDATION: Radicals react with lipids and cause oxidative destruction of unsaturated, that is, polyunsaturated fatty acids, known as lipid peroxidation. Both lipids in biological systems and lipids as food constituents are submitted to this process. Lipid peroxidation is a chain reaction and its mechanism has been shown in detail in this paper. Lipid peroxidation in cells leads to direct damage of cell membranes with indirect damages of other cell constituents, caused by reactivity of secondary products of this reaction, aldehydes. This complex reaction is responsible for damages of many tissues and progress of some diseases (atherosclerosis). OXIDATIVE STRESS: Protection of an organism from oxygen free radicals implies activity of enzymatic (catalase, SOD, glutathione peroxidase, glutathione reductase etc.) and nonenzymatic (vitamin E. vitamin C. glutathione, uric acid etc.) systems of protection. Disturbance of the balance between production of oxygen free radicals (or some other radical species) and activity of antioxidative system of protection causes the so called oxidative stress. An organism can tolerate a mild oxidative stress but a higher disturbance between the production of free radicals and the activity of the antioxidative protection results in lipid protein and DNA as well as numerous diseases.