Selenium (Se) is an essential micronutrient. Its biological functions are associated with selenoproteins, which contain this trace element in the form of the 21st amino acid, selenocysteine. Genetic defects in selenocysteine insertion into proteins are associated with severe health issues. The consequences of selenoprotein deficiency are more variable, with several selenoproteins being essential, and several showing no clear phenotypes. Much of these functional studies benefited from the use of rodent models and diets employing variable levels of Se. This review summarizes the data obtained with these models, focusing on mouse models with targeted expression of individual selenoproteins and removal of individual, subsets or all selenoproteins in a systemic or organ-specific manner. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Cell Biology of Metals.
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