An Introduction to Reactive Oxygen Species – Measurement of ROS in Cells

Mye interessant om ROS (reactive oxygen species), som er skadevirkningene fra oksygenforbruk. Nevner ikke CO2 som antioksidant, men beskriver superoksid dismutase, glutathion og c-vitamin, m.m. Glutathion er viktigste intra-cellulære antioksidant.

Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) have long been known to be a component of the killing response of immune cells to microbial invasion. Recent evidence has shown that ROS play a key role as a messenger in normal cell signal transduction and cell cycling.

Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) is a phrase used to describe a number of reactive molecules and free radicals derived from molecular oxygen. The production of oxygen based radicals is the bane to all aerobic species.

Detoxification of reactive oxygen species is paramount to the survival of all aerobic life forms. As such a number of defense mechanisms have evolved to meet this need and provide a balance between production and removal of ROS. An imbalance toward the pro-oxidative state is often referred to as “Oxidative stress”.

The effect of reactive oxygen species on cellular processes is a function of the strength and duration of exposure, as well as the context of the exposure. The typical cellular response to stress is to leave the cell cycle and enter into G0. With continued exposure and/or high levels of ROS, apoptosis mechanisms are triggered.

Reactive oxygen species have a role in a number of cellular processes. High levels of ROS, which can lead to cellular damage, oxidative stress and DNA damage, can elicit either cell survival or apoptosis mechanisms depending on severity and duration of exposure.

The interest in reactive oxygen species originally revolved around the pathology associated with the deleterious effects of aerobic respiration: the necessary evil caused by the leakage from the electron transport chain in mitochondria. In this context, research involved the role that these agents played in aging, chronic diseases and cancer.

A new frontier was born with the discovery that the “oxidative burst” by phagocytic cells was actually the result of the intentional production of reactive oxygen species. This was thought to be a very specific application where specific cells produced what can only be described as toxic agents in order to kill invading microorganisms. Further recent work has shown that ROS are produced in all cell types and serve as important cellular messengers for both intra- and inter-cellular communications. It is now apparent that a very complex intra-cellular regulatory system involving ROS exists within cells. Cells respond to ROS moieties in different ways depending on the intensity, duration and context of the signaling. In regards to intracellular signaling it appears that hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is the most interesting candidate, while nitric oxide (•NO) is involved primarily with intercellular signaling.

Evolution of Air Breathing: Oxygen Homeostasis and the Transitions from Water to Land and Sky

Omfattende studie som beskriver hvordan vi har tilpasset oss høyere nivåer av oksygen. Bekrefter alle innspill jeg har hatt om oksygen sin destruktive effekt og at beskyttelsen mot oksygenets skadevirkninger er viktigere enn å få mer oksygen inn i kroppen. Lunger, sirkulasjonssystem, hemoglobin, antioksidantsystem og det at mitokondriene er godt gjemt inni en annen celle som er godt beskyttet av en tett cellevegg er forsvars- og reguleringsmekanismer mot det livsfarlige men også livsnødvendige oksygenet.

Nevner at den opprinnelige atmosfæren bestod av veldig lite O2(1-2% eller 2,4 mmHg) og mer enn dobbelt så mye CO2. Dette er miljøet mitokondriene ble utviklet i for 2,7 billioner år siden, og som de fortsatt lever i inni cellene våre. Om oksygennivået økes tilmer enn dette blir mitokondriene dårligere og mister sin funksjon.

Nevner også at forsvarsmekanismene mot oksygen var tilstede helt fra starten. Og hemoglobin (blodcelle i dyr) og klorofyll (i planter) tilfredstiller alle de nødvendige beskyttende egenskapene vi trenger mot oksygen.

Nevner at CO2 var den første antioksidanten i evolusjonen.

Beskriver også det som skjer i mitokondria, at hypoxi (lavere O2 tilgjengelighet) gir mindre ROS og økt mitochondrial uncoupling (produksjon av varme istedet for ATP). Vi kan se dette som om mitokondriene går på tomgang med lavt turtall, mens ATP produksjon er høyt turtall og dermed også mer slitasje.

Nevner også evolusjonen av diafragma som den primære pustemuskelen.

Life originated in anoxia, but many organisms came to depend upon oxygen for survival, independently evolving diverse respiratory systems for acquiring oxygen from the environment. Ambient oxygen tension (PO2) fluctuated through the ages in correlation with biodiversity and body size, enabling organisms to migrate from water to land and air and sometimes in the opposite direction. Habitat expansion compels the use of different gas exchangers, for example, skin, gills, tracheae, lungs, and their intermediate stages, that may coexist within the same species; coexistence may be temporally disjunct (e.g., larval gills vs. adult lungs) or simultaneous (e.g., skin, gills, and lungs in some salamanders). Disparate systems exhibit similar directions of adaptation: toward larger diffusion interfaces, thinner barriers, finer dynamic regulation, and reduced cost of breathing. Efficient respiratory gas exchange, coupled to downstream convective and diffusive resistances, comprise the “oxygen cascade”—step-down of PO2 that balances supply against toxicity. Here, we review the origin of oxygen homeostasis, a primal selection factor for all respiratory systems, which in turn function as gatekeepers of the cascade. Within an organism’s lifespan, the respiratory apparatus adapts in various ways to upregulate oxygen uptake in hypoxia and restrict uptake in hyperoxia. In an evolutionary context, certain species also become adapted to environmental conditions or habitual organismic demands. We, therefore, survey the comparative anatomy and physiology of respiratory systems from invertebrates to vertebrates, water to air breathers, and terrestrial to aerial inhabitants. Through the evolutionary directions and variety of gas exchangers, their shared features and individual compromises may be appreciated.


Oxygen, a vital gas and a lethal toxin, represents a trade-off with which all organisms have had a conflicted relationship. While aerobic respiration is essential for efficient metabolic energy production, a prerequisite for complex organisms, cumulative cellular oxygen stress has also made senescence and death inevitable. Harnessing the energy from oxidative phosphorylation while minimizing cellular stress and damage is an eternal struggle transcending specific organ systems or species, a conflict that shaped an assortment of gas-exchange systems.

The respiratory organ is the “gatekeeper” that determines the amount of oxygen available for distribution. Gas exchangers arose as simple air-blood diffusion interfaces that in active animals progressively gained in complexity in coordination with the cardiovascular system, leading to serial “step-downs” of oxygen tension to maintain homeostasis between uptake distribution and cellular protection.

While a comprehensive treatment of the evolutionary physiology of respiration is beyond the scope of any one article, here we focuses on the first step of the oxygen cascade—convection and diffusion in the gas-exchange organ—to provide an overview of the diversity of nature’s “solutions” to the dilemma of acquiring enough but not too much oxygen from the environment.

Ubiquity of Reactive Oxygen Species

As reviewed by Lane (407) and Maina (466), the primary atmosphere contained mainly nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. Much of these were swept away by meteorite bombardment and replaced with a secondary atmosphere (416-418, 579, 590) consisting of hydrogen sulfide, cyanide, carbon monoxide, carbon doxide, methane, and more water vapor from volcanic eruptions. Only trace oxygen (<0.01% present atmospheric level) existed (418), originated from inorganic (photolysis and peroxy hydrolysis) (622) and organic (photosynthesis) sources.

Oxidative respiration is the reverse process as O2 accepts four electrons successively to form water. Many of these steps are catalyzed by transitional metal ions (e.g., iron, copper, and magnesium). Therefore, aerobic respiration, oxygen toxicity and radiation poisoning represent equivalent forms of oxidative stress (407).

Origin of Oxygen Sensing and Antioxidation—Metalloproteins

If oxidative stress was present from the beginning, early anaerobic organisms must have possessed effective antioxidant defenses, including mechanism(s) for controlled O2 sensing, storage, transport, and release as well as pathways for neutralizing ROS. The general class of compounds that fulfill these requirements is the metalloproteins that transfer electrons via transitional metals (766, 767), for example, heme proteins and chlorophyll (Fig. 2).

Hydrogen may have been the first electron donor and CO2 the first electron acceptor for synthesizing ATP by chemiosmosis (408).

Because of a high redox potential of O2 as the terminal electron acceptor in electron transport, aerobic respiration is far more efficient in energy production (36 moles of ATP per mole of glucose) than anaerobic respiration (~5 moles). Aerobic multicellular organisms arose approximately 1 Ga and more complex organisms such as marine molluscs thrived approximately 550 to 500 million years ago (Ma). Exposed to a still low O2 tension in the deep sea, these organisms uniformly possessed metalloprotein respiratory pigments with a characteristically high O2 affinity for efficient O2 storage and slow O2 release thereby avoiding flooding the cell with excessive ROS (783). Contemporary myoglobin continues to perform this regulatory function in muscle.

It is well recognized that embryos and undifferentiated cells grow better in a hypoxia (129, 153). A low O2 tension (1%-5%) is an important component of the embryonic and mesenchymal stem cell “niche” that maintains stem cell properties, minimizes oxidative stress, prevents chromosomal abnormalities, improves clonal survival, and perpetuates the undifferentiated characteristics (457). In addition, hypoxia stimulates endothelial cell proliferation, migration, tubulogenesis, and stress resistance (752, 850) as well as preferential growth and vascularization of many malignant tumor cells; the latter observation constitutes the basis for the use of adjuvant hyperoxia to enhance tumor killing during irradiation and chemotherapy (277,738). Collectively, these responses to O2 tension suggest that the pulmonary gas-exchange organs adapted in a direction toward controlled restriction of cellular exposure to O2.

Origin of the Oxygen Cascade

The oxygen cascade (Fig. 6) describes serial step-downs of O2 tension from ambient air through successive resistances across the pulmonary, cardiac, macrovascular and microvascular systems into the cell and mitochondria. These resistances adapt in a coordinated fashion in response to changes in ambient O2 availability or utilization (333). Traditional paradigm holds that the primary selection pressure in the evolution of O2 transport systems is the efficiency of O2 delivery to meet cellular metabolic demands. If this is the sole function of the cascade, why are there so many resistances? Once we accept the anaerobic origin of eukaryotes and their persistent preference for hypoxia, an alternative paradigm becomes plausible, namely, the entire oxygen cascade could be viewed as an elaborate gate-keeping mechanism the major function of which is to balance cellular O2 delivery against oxidative damage.

Mitochondria consume the majority of cellular O2, directly control intracellular O2 tension, and generate most of the cellular ROS (136). Intracellular O2 tension in turn regulates mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation, ROS production, cell signaling, and gene expression. Via O2-dependent oxidative phosphorylation the mitochondria act as cellular O2 sensors in the regulation of diverse responses from local blood flow to electric activity (830). Earlier studies reported that hypoxia increases mitochondrial ROS generation (126, 782, 823) via several mechanisms: (i) O2 limitation at the terminal complex IV (cytochrome c oxidase) in the mitochondrial electron transport chain causes electrons to back up the chain with increased electron leak to form superoxide (•O2−). (ii) Hypoxia induces conformational changes in complex III (ubiquinol cytochrome c oxidoreductase) to enhance superoxide formation (88, 287). (iii) Oxidized cytochrome c scavenges superoxide (722). Hypoxia-induced O2 limitation at complex IV leads to cytochrome c reduction, limiting its ability to scavenge superoxide and enhancing mitochondrial ROS leakage. However, recent studies of isolated mitochondria show that hypoxia actually reduces mitochondrial ROS generation and causes mitochondrial uncoupling, suggesting extramitochondrial sources of ROS generation in hypoxia (330). These conflicting reports remain to be resolved. Nonetheless, moderate hypoxia rapidly and reversibly downregulates mitochondrial enzyme transcripts, in parallel with reductions in mitochondrial respiratory activity and O2 consumption (631).

As paleo-atmospheric O2 concentration increased and multicellular aerobic organisms arose, the endosymbiotic mitochondria-host relationship faced the challenge of balancing conflicting needs of aerobic energy generation for the host cell and anaerobic protection for its internal power generator. The host cell must finely control a constant supply of O2 to the mitochondria for oxidative phosphorylation while simultaneously protecting mitochondria against oxidative damage by maintaining a near-anoxic level of local O2 concentration. This trade-off may have led to the evolution of ever more elaborate physicochemical barriers that created and maintained successive O2 partial pressure gradients, by convection and diffusion in the lung, chemical binding to hemoglobin, distribution and release via cardiovascular delivery, dissociation from hemoglobin, and diffusion into peripheral cells with or without myoglobin facilitated transport. As a result, the primordial anoxic conditions of the Earth necessary for survival and optimal function of this proteobacterial remnant are preserved inside the host cell. In working human leg muscle O2 tension at the sarcoplasmic and mitochondrial boundaries has been estimated at approximately 2.4 mmHg (0.32 kPa) (835) and muscle mitochondrial O2 concentration at half-maximal metabolic rate 0.02 to 0.2 mmHg (834), that is, in the range of the ancient atmospheric level approximately 2 Ga. Raising O2 tension above these levels impairs mitochondrial activity (672). In this context, protection of mitochondria from O2 exposure likely constitutes a major selection factor in the evolution of complex aerobic life while the various forms of systemic O2 delivery systems are necessary but secondary functions that sustain the “gate-keeping” barrier apparatus to maintain adequate partial pressure gradients along the O2 transport cascade and preserve the near-anoxic intracellular conditions for the mitochondria. In parallel with physical barriers, cells also developed various biochemical scavenging and antioxidant pathways to counteract the toxic effects of ROS as ambient oxygenation increased.

Defense against the Dark Arts of Oxidation

To summarize, the evolution of life on Earth has adapted to a wide range of ambient O2 levels from 0% to 35%. Periods of relative hyperoxia promote biodiversity and gigantism but incur excess oxidative stress and mandating the upregulation of antioxidant defenses. Periods of relative hypoxia promote coordinated conservation of resources and downregulation of metabolic capacities to improve energy efficiency and channel some savings into compensatory growth of gas-exchange organs. The trajectory of early evolution is at least partly coupled to O2 content of the atmosphere and the deep ocean, and there is a plausible explanation for the coupling, namely, defense against the dark arts of oxidation. Oxygen is capable of giving and taking life. The anaerobic proteobacteria escaped the fate of annihilation by taking refuge inside another cell and in a brilliant evolutionary move coopted its own oxygen-detoxifying machinery to provide essential sustenance for the host cell in return for nourishment and physical protection from oxidation. As the threat of oxidation increased with rising environmental O2 concentration, selection pressure escalated for ever more sophisticated defense mechanisms against oxidative injury and in direct conflict with simultaneously escalating selection pressures to harness the energetic advantage of oxidative phosphorylation.

Trading off the above opposing demands shaped all known respiratory organs, from simple O2 diffusion across cell membranes to facilitated transport via O2 binding proteins to gas-exchange systems of varying complexity (skin, gills, tracheae, book lung, alveolar lung, and avian lung) (Sections 2-5). Concurrently evolving with a convective transport system, these increasingly elaborate respiratory organs not only increase O2 uptake but also maintain air-to-mitochondria O2 tension gradients and intracellular O2 fluxes at a hospitable ancestral level. This epic struggle began at the dawn of life and persisted to the present on a universal scale. The evolutionary trajectory of air breathing has continued contemporary significance to the understanding of oxygen-dependent metabolic homeostasis, especially in relation to maturation, senescence, and aging-related organ degeneration and disease.

Free oxygen radicals in whole blood correlate strongly with high-sensitivity C-reactive protein.

Nevner at mengden ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species) i blod korresponderer direkte til CRP, en betenneslsesmarkør.


Increased concentrations of reactive oxygen molecules are believed to be a driving force in inflammation. Although evident in tissue culture and animal models, it has been difficult to link reactive oxygen species (ROS) and inflammatory markers in humans. In patients recruited to represent a broad spectrum of risk factors, we investigated the relationship between the plasma concentration of oxygen radicals and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), utilizing a new chemistry with an easily oxidized chromophore.


ROS and hs-CRP were measured in blood from 59 fasting subjects selected to have variable risk predicted by classical risk factors. ROS were determined using the free oxygen radical monitor, which is an indirect colorimetric assay for the concentration of hydroperoxides in whole blood.


Using log transformation, the correlation between ROS and hs-CRP was r = 0.505 (P < 0.0001). This relationship between ROS and hs-CRP was comparable (r = 0.527, P = 0.001) in the subgroup not currently on statin therapy (n = 39). ROS were not correlated with Framingham risk, r = -0.027 (P = 0.84).


ROS directly measured in human blood correlates strongly with hs-CRP.

Vagal tone and the inflammatory reflex

En studie som beskriver mekanismene bak hvordan vagus nerven henger sammen med immunsystemet. Med en sterk vagusnerve (høy HRV) kan betennelser dempes.

Inhibition of sympathoexcitatory circuits is influenced by cerebral structures and mediated via vagal mechanisms. Studies of pharmacologic blockade of the prefrontal cortex together with neuroimaging studies support the role of the right hemisphere in parasympathetic control of the heart via its connection with the right vagus nerve. Neural mechanisms also regulate inflammation; vagus nerve activity inhibits macrophage activation and the synthesis of tumor necrosis factor in the reticuloendothelial system through the release of acetylcholine. Data suggest an association between heart rate variability and inflammation that may support the concept of a cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway.

The neurovisceral integration model of cardiac vagal tone integrates autonomic, attentional, and affective systems into a functional and structural network. This neural network can be indexed by heart rate variability (HRV). High HRV is associated with greater prefrontal inhibitory tone. A lack of inhibition leads to undifferentiated threat responses to environmental challenges.

The cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway

Acetylcholine and parasympathetic tone inhibit proinflammatory cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-6. These proinflammatory cytokines are under tonic inhibitory control via the vagus nerve, and this function may have important implications for health and disease.5

The cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway is associated with efferent activity in the vagus nerve, leading to acetylcholine release in the reticuloendothelial system that includes the liver, heart, spleen, and gastrointestinal tract. Acetylcholine interacts with the alpha-7 nicotinic receptor on tissue macrophages to inhibit the release of proinflammatory cytokines, but not anti-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-10.

Approximately 80% of the fibers of the vagus nerve are sensory; ie, they sense the presence of proinflammatory cytokines and convey the signal to the brain. Efferent vagus nerve activity leads to the release of acetylcholine, which inhibits tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha on the macrophages. Cytokine regulation also involves the sympathetic nervous system and the endocrine system (the hypothalamic-pituitary axis).

Inverse relationship between HRV and CRP

In a study of 613 airplane factory workers in southern Germany, vagally mediated HRV was inversely related to high-sensitivity CRP in men and premenopausal women, even after controlling for urinary norepinephrine as an index of sympathetic activity.6

Inverse relationship between HRV and fibrinogen

In a related report from the same study, vagal modulation of fibrinogen was investigated.7 Fibrinogen is a large glycoprotein that is synthesized by the liver. Plasma fibrinogen is a measure of systemic inflammation crucially involved in atherosclerosis.


The brain and the heart are intimately connected. Both epidemiologic and experimental data suggest an association between HRV and inflammation, including similar neural mechanisms. Evidence of an association between HRV and inflammation supports the concept of a cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway.

Supplementary oxygen for nonhypoxemic patients: O2 much of a good thing?

Nevner alt om hvordan oksygen er skadelig i høye mengder, både i klinisk sammenheng og eller. Bl.a. fordi med høy O2 går CO2 ned og da trekker blodårene seg sammen.


Supplementary oxygen is routinely administered to patients, even those with adequate oxygen saturations, in the belief that it increases oxygen delivery. But oxygen delivery depends not just on arterial oxygen content but also on perfusion. It is not widely recognized that hyperoxia causes vasoconstriction, either directly or through hyperoxia-induced hypocapnia. If perfusion decreases more than arterial oxygen content increases during hyperoxia, then regional oxygen delivery decreases. This mechanism, and not (just) that attributed to reactive oxygen species, is likely to contribute to the worse outcomes in patients given high-concentration oxygen in the treatment of myocardial infarction, in postcardiac arrest, in stroke, in neonatal resuscitation and in the critically ill. The mechanism may also contribute to the increased risk of mortality in acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, in which worsening respiratory failure plays a predominant role. To avoid these effects, hyperoxia and hypocapnia should be avoided, with oxygen administered only to patients with evidence of hypoxemia and at a dose that relieves hypoxemia without causing hyperoxia.

… the aim of oxygen therapy should be to increase the delivery of oxygen rather than to reach any arbitrary concentration in the arterial blood.

Hyperoxia marginally increases the arterial blood oxygen content (CaO2), theoretically increasing tissue oxygen delivery (DO2) assuming no reduction in tissue blood flow. However, oxygen causes constriction of the coronary, cerebral, renal and other key vasculatures – and if regional perfusion decreases concomitantly with blood hyperoxygenation, one would have a seemingly paradoxical situation in which the administration of oxygen may place tissues at increased risk of hypoxic stress. Any tissue damage in the course of oxygen administration would plausibly be attributed to the underlying disease process.

One molecule, many derivatives: a never-ending interaction of melatonin with reactive oxygen and nitrogen species?

Alt om hvordan melatonin virker som en antioksidant. Jo større ROS utfordring vi har, jo mer spiser det av melatoninlagrene våre. Når vi får mindre ROS, feks gjennom kostholdsendringer og stressreduksjon, så økes melatonin igjen.

Melatonin is a highly conserved molecule. Its presence can be traced back to ancient photosynthetic prokaryotes. A primitive and primary function of melatonin is that it acts as a receptor-independent free radical scavenger and a broad-spectrum antioxidant. The receptor-dependent functions of melatonin were subsequently acquired during evolution. In the current review, we focus on melatonin metabolism which includes the synthetic rate-limiting enzymes, synthetic sites, potential regulatory mechanisms, bioavailability in humans, mechanisms of breakdown and functions of its metabolites. Recent evidence indicates that the original melatonin metabolite may be N1-acetyl-N2-formyl-5-methoxykynuramine (AFMK) rather than its commonly measured urinary excretory product 6-hydroxymelatonin sulfate. Numerous pathways for AFMK formation have been identified both in vitro and in vivo. These include enzymatic and pseudo-enzymatic pathways, interactions with reactive oxygen species (ROS)/reactive nitrogen species (RNS) and with ultraviolet irradiation. AFMK is present in mammals including humans, and is the only detectable melatonin metabolite in unicellular organisms and metazoans. 6-hydroxymelatonin sulfate has not been observed in these low evolutionary-ranked organisms. This implies that AFMK evolved earlier in evolution than 6-hydroxymelatonin sulfate as a melatonin metabolite. Via the AFMK pathway, a single melatonin molecule is reported to scavenge up to 10 ROS/RNS. That the free radical scavenging capacity of melatonin extends to its secondary, tertiary and quaternary metabolites is now documented. It appears that melatonin’s interaction with ROS/RNS is a prolonged process that involves many of its derivatives. The process by which melatonin and its metabolites successively scavenge ROS/RNS is referred as the free radical scavenging cascade. This cascade reaction is a novel property of melatonin and explains how it differs from other conventional antioxidants. This cascade reaction makes melatonin highly effective, even at low concentrations, in protecting organisms from oxidative stress. In accordance with its protective function, substantial amounts of melatonin are found in tissues and organs which are frequently exposed to the hostile environmental insults such as the gut and skin or organs which have high oxygen consumption such as the brain. In addition, melatonin production may be upregulated by low intensity stressors such as dietary restriction in rats and exercise in humans.

Intensive oxidative stress results in a rapid drop of circulating melatonin levels. This melatonin decline is not related to its reduced synthesis but to its rapid consumption, i.e. circulating melatonin is rapidly metabolized by interaction with ROS/RNS induced by stress. Rapid melatonin consumption during elevated stress may serve as a protective mechanism of organisms in which melatonin is used as a first-line defensive molecule against oxidative damage. The oxidative status of organisms modifies melatonin metabolism. It has been reported that the higher the oxidative state, the more AFMK is produced. The ratio of AFMK and another melatonin metabolite, cyclic 3-hydroxymelatonin, may serve as an indicator of the level of oxidative stress in organisms.

Primitive, and protective, our cellular oxygenation status?

Om hvordan oksygennivået i mitokondriene er nesten ingen ting, og har vært slik siden tidenes morgen for å beskytte oss mot svingende oksygennivåer i atmosfæren gjennom evlusjonen.

The primitive atmosphere where aerobic life started on earth was hypoxic and hypercapnic. Remarkably, an adaptation strategy whereby O2 partial pressure, PO2, in the arterial blood is maintained within a low and narrow range of 1-3 kPa, largely independent of inspired PO2, has also been reported in modern water-breathers. In mammalian tissues, including brain, the most frequently measured PO2 is also in the same low range. Based on the postulate that basic cellular machinery has been established since the early stages of evolution, we propose that this similarity in oxygenation status is the consequence of an early adaptation strategy which, subsequently, throughout the course of evolution, maintained cellular oxygenation in the same low and primitive range independent of environmental changes. Specialized enzymes aimed at protecting cells against O2 toxicity are thought to have appeared very early in evolution but we suggest that preventing high PO2’s is also the simplest and most efficient tool for limiting reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. It could be a cue mechanism to widen our understanding of the ageing process.