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Appl Environ Microbiol. 1994 Dec;60(12):4310-8.

Optimization of an Escherichia coli formate dehydrogenase assay for selenium compounds.

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Food Composition Laboratory, Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, Maryland 20705.


A microbiological assay to detect different chemical compounds of selenium for potential future use in the study of the distribution of these chemical forms in foods is being developed. This assay is based on the detection, by infrared analysis, of CO2 in a culture of Escherichia coli when the bacteria are grown in the presence of various selenium compounds. The CO2 production is the result of selenium-dependent formate dehydrogenase activity, which catalyzes oxidation of formic acid produced during glucose metabolism. Smooth response curves were generated over several orders of magnitude for selenocystine, selenite, and selenomethionine. The assay detects selenium concentrations (above background) as low as 1.5 nM for selenocystine and selenite and 4 nM for selenomethionine in minimal medium. Detection of selenomethionine was enhanced (to a sensitivity of 1.5 nM) by the addition of methionine to minimal medium and was enhanced even further (to a sensitivity of 0.8 nM) by the addition of a defined mixture of amino acids. Selenomethionine could be assayed in the presence of an amino acid concentration which is proportional to the amino acid/elemental selenium ratio found in a wheat gluten reference material (NIST SRM 8418). This implies that the assay can detect selenium compounds in a variety of foods at low concentrations, avoiding the background CO2 production caused by high concentrations of non-selenium-containing amino acids. The observation that methionine enhanced selenomethionine availability for formate dehydrogenase synthesis supports studies in animals demonstrating that methionine controls selenomethionine incorporation into selenoenzymes.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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