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PLoS Genet. 2008 Jun 13;4(6):e1000095. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1000095.

Trends in selenium utilization in marine microbial world revealed through the analysis of the global ocean sampling (GOS) project.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.


Selenium is an important trace element that occurs in proteins in the form of selenocysteine (Sec) and in tRNAs in the form of selenouridine. Recent large-scale metagenomics projects provide an opportunity for understanding global trends in trace element utilization. Herein, we characterized the selenoproteome of the microbial marine community derived from the Global Ocean Sampling (GOS) expedition. More than 3,600 selenoprotein gene sequences belonging to 58 protein families were detected, including sequences representing 7 newly identified selenoprotein families, such as homologs of ferredoxin-thioredoxin reductase and serine protease. In addition, a new eukaryotic selenoprotein family, thiol reductase GILT, was identified. Most GOS selenoprotein families originated from Cys-containing thiol oxidoreductases. In both Pacific and Atlantic microbial communities, SelW-like and SelD were the most widespread selenoproteins. Geographic location had little influence on Sec utilization as measured by selenoprotein variety and the number of selenoprotein genes detected; however, both higher temperature and marine (as opposed to freshwater and other aquatic) environment were associated with increased use of this amino acid. Selenoproteins were also detected with preference for either environment. We identified novel fusion forms of several selenoproteins that highlight redox activities of these proteins. Almost half of Cys-containing SelDs were fused with NADH dehydrogenase, whereas such SelD forms were rare in terrestrial organisms. The selenouridine utilization trait was also analyzed and showed an independent evolutionary relationship with Sec utilization. Overall, our study provides insights into global trends in microbial selenium utilization in marine environments.

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