CD94/NKG2A is an inhibitory receptor that controls the activity of a large proportion of human NK cells following interactions with the nonclassical HLA class Ib molecule HLA-E expressed on target cells. In this study, we show that selenite (SeO(3)(2-)), an inorganic selenium compound, induces an almost complete loss of cell surface expression of HLA-E on tumor cells of various origins. Selenite abrogated the HLA-E expression at a posttranscriptional level, since selenite exposure led to a dose-dependent decrease in cellular HLA-E protein expression whereas the mRNA levels remained intact. The loss of HLA-E expression following selenite treatment was associated with decreased levels of intracellular free thiols in the tumor cells, suggesting that the reduced HLA-E protein synthesis was caused by oxidative stress. Indeed, HLA-E expression and the level of free thiols remained intact following treatment with selenomethionine, a selenium compound that does not generate oxidative stress. Loss of HLA-E expression, but not of total HLA class I expression, on tumor cells resulted in increased susceptibility to CD94/NK group 2A-positive NK cells. Our results suggest that selenite may be used to potentiate the anti-tumor cytotoxicity in settings of NK cell-based immunotherapies.