CO-releasing molecules (CO-RMs) were previously shown by us to be more potent bactericides than CO gas. This suggests a mechanism of action for CO-RM, which either potentiates the activity of CO or uses another CO-RM-specific effect. We have also reported that CORM-2 induces the expression of genes related to oxidative stress. In the present study we intend to establish whether the generation of reactive oxygen species by CO-RMs may indeed result in the inhibition of bacterial cellular function. We now report that two CO-RMs (CORM-2 and ALF062) stimulate the production of ROS in Escherichia coli, an effect that is abolished by addition of antioxidants. Furthermore, deletion of genes encoding E. coli systems involved in reactive oxygen species scavenging, namely catalases and superoxide dismutases, potentiates the lethality of CORM-2 due to an increase of intracellular ROS content. CORM-2 also induces the expression of the E. coli DNA repair/SOS system recA, and its inactivation enhances toxicity of CORM-2. Moreover, fluorescence microscopy images reveal that CORM-2 causes DNA lesions to bacterial cells. We also demonstrate that cells treated with CORM-2 contain higher levels of free iron arising from destruction of iron-sulfur proteins. Importantly, we show that CO-RMs generate hydroxyl radicals in a cell-free solution, a process that is abolished by scavenging CO. Altogether, we provide a novel insight into the molecular basis of CO-RMs action by showing that their bactericidal properties are linked to cell damage inflicted by the oxidative stress that they are able to generate.