Editor-in-Chief: Brüne, Bernhard
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Selenium in Biology: Facts and Medical Perspectives
Several decades after the discovery of selenium as an essential trace element in vertebrates approximately 20 eukaryotic and more than 15 prokaryotic selenoproteins containing the 21st proteinogenic amino acid, selenocysteine, have been identified, partially characterized or cloned from several species. Many of these proteins are involved in redox reactions with selenocysteine acting as an essential component of the catalytic cycle. Enzyme activities have been assigned to the glutathione peroxidase family, to the thioredoxin reductases, which were recently identified as selenoproteins, to the iodothyronine deiodinases, which metabolize thyroid hormones, and to the selenophosphate synthetase 2, which is involved in selenoprotein biosynthesis. Prokaryotic selenoproteins catalyze redox reactions and formation of selenoethers in (stress-induced) metabolism and energy production of E. coli, of the clostridial cluster XI and of other prokaryotes. Apart from the specific and complex biosynthesis of selenocysteine, selenium also reversibly binds to proteins, is incorporated into selenomethionine in bacteria, yeast and higher plants, or posttranslationally modifies a catalytically essential cysteine residue of CO dehydrogenase. Expression of individual eukaryotic selenoproteins exhibits high tissue specificity, depends on selenium availability, in some cases is regulated by hormones, and if impaired contributes to several pathological conditions. Disturbance of selenoprotein expression or function is associated with deficiency syndromes (Keshan and Kashin-Beck disease), might contribute to tumorigenesis and atherosclerosis, is altered in several bacterial and viral infections, and leads to infertility in male rodents.
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