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Biomed Pharmacother. 2003 May-Jun;57(3-4):134-44.

The antioxidant role of selenium and seleno-compounds.

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Université de Paris - Faculté de Pharmacie, CNRS UMR 8612, 5, rue Jean-Baptiste Clément, 94200, Chatenay-Malabry, France.


Selenium (Se) is an essential trace element for animals and humans that is obtained from dietary sources including cereals, grains and vegetables. The Se content of plants varies considerably according to its concentration in soil. Plants convert Se mainly into Se-methionine (Se-Met) and incorporate it into protein in place of methionine (Met). Selenocystine (Se-Cys), methyl-Se-Cys and gamma-glutamyl-Se-methyl-Cys are not significantly incorporated into plant protein and are at relatively low levels irrespective of soil Se content. Higher animals are unable to synthesize Se-Met and only Se-Cys was detected in rats supplemented with Se as selenite. Renal regulation is the mode by which whole body Se is controlled. Se is concentrated in hair and nail and it occurs almost exclusively in organic compounds. The potentiating effect of Se deficiency on lipid peroxidation is enhanced in some tissues by concurrent deficiency of copper or manganese. In the in vitro system, the chemical form of Se is an important factor in eliciting cellular responses. Although the cytotoxic mechanisms of selenite and other redoxing Se compounds are still unclear, it has been suggested that they derive from their ability to catalyze the oxidation of thiols and to produce superoxide simultaneously. Selenite-induced cytotoxicity and apoptosis in human carcinoma cells can be inhibited with copper (CuSO(4)) as an antioxidant. High doses of selenite result in induction of 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) in mouse skin cell DNA and in primary human keratinocytes. It may cause DNA fragmentation and decreased DNA synthesis, cell growth inhibition, DNA synthesis, blockade of the cell cycle at the S/G(2)-M phase and cell death by necrosis. In contrast, in cells treated with methylselenocyanate or Se methylselenocysteine, the cell cycle progression was blocked at the G(1) phase and cell death was predominantly induced by apoptosis.

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