Organoselenium compounds as potential therapeutic and chemopreventive agents: a review

Curr Med Chem. 2004 Jun;11(12):1657-69. doi: 10.2174/0929867043365053.


Selenium is an essential trace element. It is, however toxic at concentration little above which is required for health. Selenium is incorporated into proteins as selenocysteine, the 21(st) amino acid. Selenoproteins are found in bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes. Biochemical and physicochemical properties of selenium result in the unique redox characteristics of selenocysteine and its use in antioxidant enzymes. In this context of a redox reaction is the reduction of reactive oxygen metabolites by glutathione peroxidases, helping to maintain membrane integrity, reduces the oxidative damage to lipids, lipoproteins, and DNA. Selenium has structural and enzymatic roles. Selenium influences a number of endocrine processes, most notably, those involved in thyroid hormone synthesis and metabolism. Se is needed for the proper functioning of the immune system, a role in viral suppression, AIDS, and also is implicated in delaying the aging process. Its deficiency has been linked to a number of disorders such as heart disease, diabetes, and diseases of the liver, and it is required for sperm motility and may reduce the risk of miscarriage. Se supplementation has recently moved from the realm of correcting nutritional deficiencies to one of pharmacological intervention, especially in the clinical domain of cancer chemoprevention. During the last few years, a tremendous effort has been directed toward the synthesis of stable organoselenium compounds that could be used as antioxidants, enzyme modulators, antitumor, antimicrobials, antihypertensive agents, antivirals and cytokine inducers. The biochemistry and pharmacology of selenium-based compounds are subjects of intense current interest, especially from the point of view of public heath. The purpose of this review is to discuss the recent pharmacological applications of organoselenium compounds as therapeutic agents in the treatment of several diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / chemistry
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Organoselenium Compounds / chemistry
  • Organoselenium Compounds / pharmacology
  • Organoselenium Compounds / therapeutic use*
  • Protective Agents / chemistry
  • Protective Agents / pharmacology
  • Protective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Organoselenium Compounds
  • Protective Agents