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Bioessays. 1999 Mar;21(3):231-7.

Orphan selenoproteins.

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Department of Medicine and Clinical Nutrition Research Unit, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN 37232-2279, USA.


Selenoproteins contain selenium in stoichiometric amounts. Most are synthesized by a process that decodes UGA codons as selenocysteine. Twelve animal selenoproteins have been characterized, and biochemical functions have been described for all but three. Two of these "orphan" selenoproteins are discussed in this paper. Selenoprotein P is an extracellular glycoprotein that contains multiple selenocysteines. It binds heparin and associates with endothelial cells. Two isoforms have been identified. Plasma concentration of selenoprotein P correlates with protection against diquat liver injury, suggesting that the protein protects against oxidant injury. Selenoprotein W is a small intracellular protein that contains one selenocysteine. It binds glutathione and has been suggested to function in oxidant defense. The postulated oxidant defense properties of these selenoproteins are consistent with the facile thiol-redox properties of selenocysteine. It can be predicted that more proteins will be discovered that take advantage of the chemical properties of selenium.

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