Reactive oxygen species (ROS) have been regarded as harmful molecules that damage various molecules inside cells by oxidation and are responsible for ageing and various human diseases. However, recent studies have revealed an opposite aspect of ROS that these are actively generated in cells and mediate physiological intracellular signalling as second messengers. Several proteins have been shown to function as effectors for ROS, which are sensitively and reversibly oxidized by ROS. Such ROS-effector proteins commonly possess a highly reactive cysteine (Cys) residue, of which oxidation changes the protein function, thus enabling signal transmission to downstream targets. Among the ROS effectors, protein tyrosine phosphatase (PTP), thioredoxin (TRX) and peroxiredoxin (PRX) family proteins possess special domains/motifs to maintain the reactivity of Cys and utilize them to respond to ROS. Progressively advancing identification of ROS-effector proteins reveals the pleiotropic functions of ROS in physiological and pathological cell biology.