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Volume 388, Issue 10 (Oct 2007)


Selenium in chemistry and biochemistry in comparison to sulfur

Ludger A. Wessjohann
  • 1Department of Bioorganic Chemistry, Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry, Weinberg 3, D-06120 Halle/Saale, Germany
/ Alex Schneider
  • 2Department of Bioorganic Chemistry, Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry, Weinberg 3, D-06120 Halle/Saale, Germany
/ Muhammad Abbas
  • 3Department of Bioorganic Chemistry, Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry, Weinberg 3, D-06120 Halle/Saale, Germany
/ Wolfgang Brandt
  • 4Department of Bioorganic Chemistry, Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry, Weinberg 3, D-06120 Halle/Saale, Germany
Published Online: 2007-10-16 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/BC.2007.138


What makes selenoenzymes – seen from a chemist's view – so special that they cannot be substituted by just more analogous or adapted sulfur proteins? This review compiles and compares physicochemical properties of selenium and sulfur, synthetic routes to selenocysteine (Sec) and its peptides, and comparative studies of relevant thiols and selenols and their (mixed) dichalcogens, required to understand the special role of selenium in selenoproteins on the atomic molecular level. The biochemically most relevant differences are the higher polarizability of Se- and the lower pK a of SeH. The latter has a strikingly different pH-dependence than thiols, with selenols being active at much lower pH. Finally, selected typical enzymatic mechanisms which involve selenocysteine are critically discussed, also in view of the authors' own results.

Keywords: disulfide/diselenide/selenenylsulfide interchange; enzyme mechanisms; selenocysteine; selenoproteins; synthesis

About the article

Corresponding author

Published Online: 2007-10-16

Published in Print: 2007-10-01

Citation Information: Biological Chemistry, ISSN (Online) 14374315, ISSN (Print) 14316730, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/BC.2007.138. Export Citation

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