[en] In the present review, which is aimed at researchers, teachers and students in life sciences, we try to show how the physicochemical properties of the elements and molecules define the concept of redox balance. Living organism are open systems traversed by fluxes of energy and matter. Dur-ing catabolic oxidative metabolism, matter, mostly hydrogenated organic molecules are oxi-dized and ultimately released as CO2. Electrons are passed over to coupling molecules, such as NAD+ and FAD, whose reduced forms serve as electrons donors in anabolic reactions. Early photosynthetic activity led to the accumulation of O2 and the transformation of the reducing to an oxidizing atmosphere, favoring the development of oxidative metabolism in living organisms. We focus on the specific properties of O2 which provides the chemical energy for the combustion reactions occurring in living cells. We explain the concepts of redox potential and redox balance in complex systems such as living cells and we present the main redox couples involved in cellu-lar redox balance and discuss the chemical properties underlying their cellular roles and, in par-ticular, their antioxidant properties in the defense against reactive oxygen species (ROS). Finally, we try to provide an integrative view emphasizing the interplay between metabolism, oxidative stress and metabolic compartmentation in mammalian cells.