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J Biol Chem. 2009 Jan 9;284(2):723-7. doi: 10.1074/jbc.R800045200. Epub 2008 Aug 29.


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Medical Nobel Institute for Biochemistry, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institute, SE-17177 Stockholm, Sweden.


Selenium is an essential micronutrient for man and animals. The role of selenium has been attributed largely to its presence in selenoproteins as the 21st amino acid, selenocysteine (Sec, U). Sec is encoded by TGA in DNA. A unique mechanism is used to decode the UGA codon in mRNA to co-translationally incorporate Sec into the growing polypeptide because there is no free pool of Sec. In the human genome, 25 genes for selenoproteins have been identified. Selenoproteins such as glutathione peroxidases, thioredoxin reductases, and iodothyronine deiodinases are involved in redox reactions, and Sec is an active-site residue essential for catalytic activity. Selenoproteins have biological functions in oxidoreductions, redox signaling, antioxidant defense, thyroid hormone metabolism, and immune responses. They thus possess a strong correlation with human diseases such as cancer, Keshan disease, virus infections, male infertility, and abnormalities in immune responses and thyroid hormone function.

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