Selenium and selenoprotein deficiencies induce widespread pyogranuloma formation in mice, while high levels of dietary selenium decrease liver tumor size driven by TGFα

PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e57389. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0057389. Epub 2013 Feb 27.


Changes in dietary selenium and selenoprotein status may influence both anti- and pro-cancer pathways, making the outcome of interventions different from one study to another. To characterize such outcomes in a defined setting, we undertook a controlled hepatocarcinogenesis study involving varying levels of dietary selenium and altered selenoprotein status using mice carrying a mutant (A37G) selenocysteine tRNA transgene (Trsp(tG37) ) and/or a cancer driver TGFα transgene. The use of Trsp(tG37) altered selenoprotein expression in a selenoprotein and tissue specific manner and, at sufficient dietary selenium levels, separate the effect of diet and selenoprotein status. Mice were maintained on diets deficient in selenium (0.02 ppm selenium) or supplemented with 0.1, 0.4 or 2.25 ppm selenium or 30 ppm triphenylselenonium chloride (TPSC), a non-metabolized selenium compound. Trsp(tG37) transgenic and TGFα/Trsp(tG37) bi-transgenic mice subjected to selenium-deficient or TPSC diets developed a neurological phenotype associated with early morbidity and mortality prior to hepatocarcinoma development. Pathology analyses revealed widespread disseminated pyogranulomatous inflammation. Pyogranulomas occurred in liver, lungs, heart, spleen, small and large intestine, and mesenteric lymph nodes in these transgenic and bi-transgenic mice. The incidence of liver tumors was significantly increased in mice carrying the TGFα transgene, while dietary selenium and selenoprotein status did not affect tumor number and multiplicity. However, adenoma and carcinoma size and area were smaller in TGFα transgenic mice that were fed 0.4 and 2.25 versus 0.1 ppm of selenium. Thus, selenium and selenoprotein deficiencies led to widespread pyogranuloma formation, while high selenium levels inhibited the size of TGFα-induced liver tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Granuloma / blood
  • Granuloma / pathology*
  • Isotopes
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / blood
  • Liver Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Organ Specificity / drug effects
  • Protein Isoforms / metabolism
  • RNA, Transfer, Amino Acid-Specific / metabolism
  • Selenium / blood
  • Selenium / deficiency*
  • Selenium / therapeutic use*
  • Selenoproteins / deficiency*
  • Selenoproteins / metabolism
  • Transforming Growth Factor alpha


  • Isotopes
  • Protein Isoforms
  • RNA, Transfer, Amino Acid-Specific
  • Selenoproteins
  • Transforming Growth Factor alpha
  • tRNA, selenocysteine-
  • Selenium