Oxidative stress is caused by an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen and the detoxification of reactive intermediates. Reactive intermediates such as peroxides and free radicals can be very damaging to many parts of cells such as proteins, lipids and DNA. Severe oxidative stress can trigger apoptosis and necrosis. Oxidative stress is involved in many diseases such as atherosclerosis, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Oxidative stress has also been linked to aging. The cellular defense response to oxidative stress includes induction of detoxifying enzymes and antioxidant enzymes. Nuclear factor-erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) binds to the antioxidant response elements (ARE) within the promoter of these enzymes and activates their transcription. Inactive Nrf2 is retained in the cytoplasm by association with an actin-binding protein Keap1. Upon exposure of cells to oxidative stress, Nrf2 is phosphorylated in response to the protein kinase C, phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase and MAP kinase pathways. After phosphorylation, Nrf2 translocates to the nucleus, binds AREs and transactivates detoxifying enzymes and antioxidant enzymes, such as glutathione S-transferase, cytochrome P450, NAD(P)H quinone oxidoreductase, heme oxygenase and superoxide dismutase.