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Oncotarget. 2011 Dec;2(12):1279-90.

Selenium is a modulator of circadian clock that protects mice from the toxicity of a chemotherapeutic drug via upregulation of the core clock protein, BMAL1.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY, USA.


Selenium compounds are known as cancer preventive agents and are also able to ameliorate the toxicity associated with anti-cancer radiation and chemotherapy in mouse models. Sensitivity to the toxicity of chemotherapy is also modulated by the circadian clock, molecular time-keeping system that underlie daily fluctuations in multiple physiological and biochemical processes. Here we show that these two mechanisms are interconnected. By screening a library of small molecules in a cell-based reporter system, we identified L-methyl-selenocysteine as a positive regulator of the core clock protein, BMAL1. L-methyl-selenocysteine up-regulates BMAL1 at the transcriptional level both in cultured cells and in mice. We also show that in tissue culture selenium exerts its action by interfering with TIEG1-mediated repression of Bmal1 promoter. Selenium treatment fails to protect BMAL1-deficient mice from toxicity induced by the chemotherapeutic agent cyclophosphamide but does protect Clock mutant mice deficient in circadian rhythm control but having normal BMAL1. These findings define selenium as circadian modulator and indicate that the tissue protective effect of selenium results, at least in part, from up-regulation of BMAL1 expression and subsequent enhancement of CLOCK/BMAL1-mediated transcription.

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