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J Nutr. 2006 May;136(5):1311-7.

Both selenoproteins and low molecular weight selenocompounds reduce colon cancer risk in mice with genetically impaired selenoprotein expression.

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Nutritional Science Research Group, National Cancer Institute, Rockville, MD 20852, USA.


Selenium has cancer protective effects in a variety of experimental systems. Currently, it is not known whether selenoproteins or low molecular weight selenocompounds are responsible for this activity. To evaluate the contribution of selenoproteins to the cancer protective effects of selenium, we used transgenic mice that carry a mutant selenocysteine transfer RNA gene, which causes reduced selenoprotein synthesis. Selenium homeostasis was characterized in liver and colon of wild-type and transgenic mice fed selenium-deficient diets supplemented with 0, 0.1, or 2.0 microg selenium (as selenite)/g diet. (75)Se-labeling, Western blot analysis, and enzymatic activities revealed that transgenic mice have reduced (P < 0.05) liver and colon glutathione peroxidase expression, but conserved thioredoxin reductase expression compared with wild-type mice, regardless of selenium status. Transgenic mice had more (P < 0.05) selenium in the nonprotein fraction of the liver and colon than wild-type mice, indicating a greater amount of low molecular weight selenocompounds. Compared with wild-type mice, transgenic mice had more (P < 0.05) azoxymethane-induced aberrant crypt formation (a preneoplastic lesion for colon cancer). Supplemental selenium decreased (P < 0.05) the number of aberrant crypts and aberrant crypt foci in both wild-type and transgenic mice. These results provide evidence that a lack of selenoprotein activity increases colon cancer susceptibility. Furthermore, low molecular weight selenocompounds reduced preneoplastic lesions independent of the selenoprotein genotype. These results are, to our knowledge, the first to provide evidence that both selenoproteins and low molecular weight selenocompounds are important for the cancer-protective effects of selenium.

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