Display Settings:


Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Biochim Biophys Acta. 2005 Oct 30;1726(1):1-13. Epub 2005 Jun 1.

Selenocysteine in proteins-properties and biotechnological use.

Author information

  • 1Medical Nobel Institute for Biochemistry, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institute, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden.


Selenocysteine (Sec), the 21st amino acid, exists naturally in all kingdoms of life as the defining entity of selenoproteins. Sec is a cysteine (Cys) residue analogue with a selenium-containing selenol group in place of the sulfur-containing thiol group in Cys. The selenium atom gives Sec quite different properties from Cys. The most obvious difference is the lower pK(a) of Sec, and Sec is also a stronger nucleophile than Cys. Proteins naturally containing Sec are often enzymes, employing the reactivity of the Sec residue during the catalytic cycle and therefore Sec is normally essential for their catalytic efficiencies. Other unique features of Sec, not shared by any of the other 20 common amino acids, derive from the atomic weight and chemical properties of selenium and the particular occurrence and properties of its stable and radioactive isotopes. Sec is, moreover, incorporated into proteins by an expansion of the genetic code as the translation of selenoproteins involves the decoding of a UGA codon, otherwise being a termination codon. In this review, we will describe the different unique properties of Sec and we will discuss the prerequisites for selenoprotein production as well as the possible use of Sec introduction into proteins for biotechnological applications. These include residue-specific radiolabeling with gamma or positron emitters, the use of Sec as a reactive handle for electophilic probes introducing fluorescence or other peptide conjugates, as the basis for affinity purification of recombinant proteins, the trapping of folding intermediates, improved phasing in X-ray crystallography, introduction of 77Se for NMR spectroscopy, or, finally, the analysis or tailoring of enzymatic reactions involving thiol or oxidoreductase (redox) selenolate chemistry.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk