Selenium and thyroid

Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Dec;23(6):815-27. doi: 10.1016/j.beem.2009.08.002.


Inadequate supply of the essential trace element selenium (Se) has been associated with predisposition for, or manifestation of, various human diseases such as Keshan and Kashin-Beck disease, cancer, impaired immune function, neurodegenerative and age-related disorders and disturbances of the thyroid hormone axis. Se deficiency in combination with inadequate iodine contributes to the pathogenesis of myxedematous cretinism. The recent identification of various distinct selenocysteine-containing proteins, encoded by 25 human genes, provides information on the molecular and biochemical basis of beneficial and possible adverse effects of this trace element. The thyroid gland is among the human tissues with the highest Se content per mass unit similar to other endocrine organs and the brain. Selenoproteins involved in cellular antioxidative defence systems and redox control, such as the glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and the thioredoxin reductase (TxnRd) family, are involved in protection of the thyroid gland from excess hydrogen peroxide and reactive oxygen species produced by the follicles for biosynthesis of thyroid hormones. In addition, the three key enzymes involved in activation and inactivation of thyroid hormones, the iodothyronine deiodinases (DIO1,2,3), are selenoproteins with development, cell- and pathology-related expression patterns. While nutritional Se supply is normally sufficient for adequate expression of functional Dio enzymes with exception of long-term parenteral nutrition and certain diseases impairing gastrointestinal absorption of Se compounds, the nutritional Se supply for the protection of the thyroid gland and synthesis of some more abundant selenoproteins of the GPx and the TrxR family might be limiting their proper expression under (patho-)physiological conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Hypothyroidism / drug therapy
  • Immunity / drug effects
  • Iodide Peroxidase / biosynthesis
  • Iodide Peroxidase / metabolism
  • Selenium / deficiency
  • Selenium / physiology*
  • Selenium / therapeutic use
  • Selenoproteins / metabolism
  • Thyroid Gland / physiology*
  • Thyroiditis, Autoimmune / drug therapy
  • Triiodothyronine / biosynthesis


  • Selenoproteins
  • Triiodothyronine
  • Iodide Peroxidase
  • Selenium