Various abiotic stresses lead to the overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in plants which are highly reactive and toxic and cause damage to proteins, lipids, carbohydrates and DNA which ultimately results in oxidative stress. The ROS comprises both free radical (O(2)(-), superoxide radicals; OH, hydroxyl radical; HO(2), perhydroxy radical and RO, alkoxy radicals) and non-radical (molecular) forms (H(2)O(2), hydrogen peroxide and (1)O(2), singlet oxygen). In chloroplasts, photosystem I and II (PSI and PSII) are the major sites for the production of (1)O(2) and O(2)(-). In mitochondria, complex I, ubiquinone and complex III of electron transport chain (ETC) are the major sites for the generation of O(2)(-). The antioxidant defense machinery protects plants against oxidative stress damages. Plants possess very efficient enzymatic (superoxide dismutase, SOD; catalase, CAT; ascorbate peroxidase, APX; glutathione reductase, GR; monodehydroascorbate reductase, MDHAR; dehydroascorbate reductase, DHAR; glutathione peroxidase, GPX; guaicol peroxidase, GOPX and glutathione-S- transferase, GST) and non-enzymatic (ascorbic acid, ASH; glutathione, GSH; phenolic compounds, alkaloids, non-protein amino acids and α-tocopherols) antioxidant defense systems which work in concert to control the cascades of uncontrolled oxidation and protect plant cells from oxidative damage by scavenging of ROS. ROS also influence the expression of a number of genes and therefore control the many processes like growth, cell cycle, programmed cell death (PCD), abiotic stress responses, pathogen defense, systemic signaling and development. In this review, we describe the biochemistry of ROS and their production sites, and ROS scavenging antioxidant defense machinery. Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.