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Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 1991 Nov;69(11):1648-52.

The role of selenium in thyroid hormone metabolism.

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  • 1Division of Biochemical Sciences, Rowett Research Institute, Bucksburn, Aberdeen, U.K.


In animals, decreases in selenium-containing glutathione peroxidase activity and the resultant impairment of peroxide metabolism can account for many, but not all of the biochemical and clinical changes caused by selenium deficiency. Recently, however, type I iodothyronine 5'-deiodinase has also been shown to be a selenium-containing enzyme. This explains the impairment of thyroid hormone metabolism caused by selenium deficiency in animals with a normal vitamin E status. Since iodothyronine 5'-deiodinases are essential for the production of the active thyroid hormone 3,5,3'-triiodothyronine, some of the consequences of selenium deficiency may result from thyroid changes rather than inability to metabolise peroxides. In particular, the impaired thyroid hormone metabolism may be responsible for decreased growth and resistance to cold stress in selenium-deficient animals. A further consequence of the role of selenium in thyroid hormone metabolism is the exacerbation of some of the thyroid changes in iodine deficiency by a concurrent selenium deficiency. Selenium status may therefore have a major influence on the outcome of iodine deficiency in both human and animal populations.

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