Methylselenocysteine resets the rhythmic expression of circadian and growth-regulatory genes disrupted by nitrosomethylurea in vivo

Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2010 May;3(5):640-52. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-09-0170. Epub 2010 Apr 27.


Epidemiologic and animal studies indicate that disruption of circadian rhythm increases breast cancer risk. Previously, we showed that methylselenocysteine reduced the incidence of N-nitroso-N-methylurea (NMU)-induced mammary carcinomas in Fischer 344 rats by 63%. Methylselenocysteine also increased the expression of Period 2 (Per2) and D-binding protein (DBP), providing evidence for a link between circadian rhythm and chemoprevention. Here, we report that NMU disrupted the expression of core circadian genes (Per1, Per2, Cry1, Cry2, and RevErbAalpha) and circadian-controlled genes, including melatonin receptor 1alpha (MTNR1A), estrogen receptors (ERalpha and ERbeta), and growth-regulatory genes (Trp53, p21, Gadd45alpha, and c-Myc) in mammary glands of Fischer 344 rats. By contrast, dietary methylselenocysteine (3 ppm selenium) given for 30 days, significantly enhanced the circadian expression of these genes (except for Cry1 and Cry2). The largest effect was on the levels of the Per2, MTNR1A, and ERbeta mRNAs, which showed 16.5-fold, 4.7-fold, and 9.5-fold increases in their rhythm-adjusted means, respectively, and 44.5-fold, 6.5-fold, and 9.7-fold increases in amplitude as compared with the control diet, respectively. Methylselenocysteine also shifted the peak expression times of these genes to Zeitgeber time 12 (ZT12; lights off). Methylselenocysteine also induced rhythmic expression of Trp53, p21, and Gadd45alpha mRNAs with peak levels at ZT12, when c-Myc expression was at its lowest level. However, methylselenocysteine had no significant effect on the circadian expression of these genes in liver. These results suggest that dietary methylselenocysteine counteracted the disruptive effect of NMU on circadian expression of genes essential to normal mammary cell growth and differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Alkylating Agents / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Circadian Rhythm / drug effects*
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics
  • Cysteine / administration & dosage
  • Cysteine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Diet
  • Female
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / drug effects*
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / metabolism
  • Methylnitrosourea / toxicity*
  • Organoselenium Compounds / administration & dosage*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Selenocysteine / analogs & derivatives


  • Alkylating Agents
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Organoselenium Compounds
  • Selenocysteine
  • Methylnitrosourea
  • Cysteine
  • selenomethylselenocysteine