The mechanisms of formation and removal of active oxygen species and lipid peroxides in biological systems have been briefly reviewed. Cytotoxic active oxygen species can be classified into two types: (a) radical species such as O2-· (superoxide) and HO·(hydroxyl radical) and (b) non-radical species such as H2O2 (hydrogen peroxide) and 1O2 (singlet oxygen). The direct or indirect attack of active oxygen species on polyunsaturated fatty acids, essential constituents of biological membranes, has been shown to result in the formation of a number of peroxidative lipid breakdown-products: LOOH (lipid hydroperoxide), LOO·(lipid peroxyl radical) and LO·(lipid alkoxyl radical). The lipid peroxide decomposition is probably dependent on the presence of ferric-ferrous ions. These processes are called lipid peroxidation reactions. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in the role played by lipid peroxidation in many disease states. The multiple lines of defense against toxic oxygen intermediates consist of enzymatic systems, glutathione peroxidase, catalase and superoxide dismutase, and furthermore involves antioxidant capacities such as those of vitamin E and vitamin C. In biological systems, there are naturally occurring lipid-soluble (vitamin E and ubiquinone) and water-soluble (vitamin C, reduced glutathione and uric acid) antioxidants. Therefore, so long as homeostasis is maintained between the rate of radical generation and the rate of radical dissipation, the cellular generation of radicals may not be harmful. In contrast, this balance can be disturbed if cellular defenses are decreased or if there is a significant increase in the flux of radical generation. Once lipid peroxidation is initiated, the reactive intermediate formed induces cell damage. However, the mechanism of initiation of the lipid peroxidation process in biological systems is still uncertain.