Abnormal oxidative stress has been described in systemic sclerosis (SSc) and previous works from our laboratory demonstrated an increased generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by SSc fibroblasts and monocytes. This study investigated the ability of SSc T lymphocytes to produce ROS, the molecular pathway involved, and the biological effects of ROS on SSc phenotype. Peripheral blood T lymphocytes were isolated from serum of healthy controls or SSc patients by negative selection with magnetic beads and activated either with PMA or with magnetic beads coated with anti-CD3 and anti-CD28 antibodies. Intracellular ROS generation was measured using a DCFH-DA assay in a plate reader fluorimeter or by FACS analysis. CD69 expression and cytokine production were analyzed by FACS analysis. Protein expression was studied using immunoblotting techniques and mRNA levels were quantified by real-time PCR. Cell proliferation was carried out using a BrdU incorporation assay. Peripheral blood T lymphocytes from SSc patients showed an increased ROS production compared to T cells from healthy subjects. Since NADPH oxidase complex is involved in oxidative stress in SSc and we found high levels of gp91phox in SSc T cells, SSc T cells were incubated with chemical inhibititors or specific siRNAs against gp91phox. Inhibition of NADPH oxidase partially reverted CD69 activation and proliferation rate increase, and significantly influenced cytokine production and ERK1/2 activation. SSc T lymphocityes are characterized by high levels of ROS, generated by NADPH oxidase via ERK1/2 phosphorylation, that are essential for cell activation, proliferation, and cytokine production. These data confirm lymphocytes as key cellular players in the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis and suggest a crucial link between ROS and T cell activation.