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IUBMB Life. 2008 Apr;60(4):232-5. doi: 10.1002/iub.38.

Eukaryotic selenoprotein synthesis: mechanistic insight incorporating new factors and new functions for old factors.

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Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI 96813, USA.


Selenium is an essential micronutrient that has been linked to various aspects of human health. Selenium exerts its biological activity through the incorporation of the amino acid, selenocysteine (Sec), into a unique class of proteins termed selenoproteins. Sec incorporation occurs cotranslationally at UGA codons in archaea, prokaryotes, and eukaryotes. UGA codons specify Sec coding rather than termination by the presence of specific secondary structures in mRNAs termed selenocysteine insertion (SECIS) elements, and trans-acting factors that associate with SECIS elements. Herein, we discuss the various proteins known to function in eukaryotic selenoprotein biosynthesis, including several players whose roles have only been elucidated very recently.

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