During its reduction to water, O2 readily gives rise to dangerously reactive intermediates. This threat is diminished by families of defensive enzymes which include the superoxide dismutases, catalases and peroxidases. Free radical chain reactions are controlled by antioxidants, such as ascorbate and the tocopherols, and oxidative damage, which occurs in spite of these defenses, is largely repaired or is nullified by de novo biosynthesis. Yet some damage is sustained and it contributes to mutagenesis, to senescence and to numerous pathological processes.

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