It is well established that muscle contractions during exercise lead to elevated levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in skeletal muscle. These highly reactive molecules have many deleterious effects, such as a reduction of force generation and increased muscle atrophy. Since the discovery of exercise-induced oxidative stress several decades ago, evidence has accumulated that ROS produced during exercise also have positive effects by influencing cellular processes that lead to increased expression of antioxidants. These molecules are particularly elevated in regularly exercising muscle to prevent the negative effects of ROS by neutralizing the free radicals. In addition, ROS also seem to be involved in the exercise-induced adaptation of the muscle phenotype. This review provides an overview of the evidences to date on the effects of ROS in exercising muscle. These aspects include the sources of ROS, their positive and negative cellular effects, the role of antioxidants, and the present evidence on ROS-dependent adaptations of muscle cells in response to physical exercise.
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