Background: This gene encodes catalase, a key antioxidant enzyme in the bodies defense against oxidative stress. Catalase is a heme enzyme that is present in the peroxisome of nearly all aerobic cells. Catalase converts the reactive oxygen species hydrogen peroxide to water and oxygen and thereby mitigates the toxic effects of hydrogen peroxide. Oxidative stress is hypothesized to play a role in the development of many chronic or late-onset diseases such as diabetes, asthma, Alzheimer's disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancers. Polymorphisms in this gene have been associated with decreases in catalase activity but, to date, acatalasemia is the only disease known to be caused by this gene.