Importance of selenium and selenoprotein for brain function: From antioxidant protection to neuronal signalling

J Inorg Biochem. 2015 Dec;153:1-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jinorgbio.2015.09.003. Epub 2015 Sep 15.


Multiple biological functions of selenium manifest themselves mainly via 25 selenoproteins that have selenocysteine at their active centre. Selenium is vital for the brain and seems to participate in the pathology of disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and epilepsy. Since selenium was shown to be involved in diverse functions of the central nervous system, such as motor performance, coordination, memory and cognition, a possible role of selenium and selenoproteins in brain signalling pathways may be assumed. The aim of the present review is to analyse possible relations between selenium and neurotransmission. Selenoproteins seem to be of special importance in the development and functioning of GABAergic (GABA, γ-aminobutyric acid) parvalbumin positive interneurons of the cerebral cortex and hippocampus. Dopamine pathway might be also selenium dependent as selenium shows neuroprotection in the nigrostriatal pathway and also exerts toxicity towards dopaminergic neurons under higher concentrations. Recent findings also point to acetylcholine neurotransmission involvement. The role of selenium and selenoproteins in neurotransmission might not only be limited to their antioxidant properties but also to inflammation, influencing protein phosphorylation and ion channels, alteration of calcium homeostasis and brain cholesterol metabolism. Moreover, a direct signalling function was proposed for selenoprotein P through interaction with post-synaptic apoliprotein E receptors 2 (ApoER2).

Keywords: Brain; Neurodegeneration; Neuron; Neurotransmission; Selenium; Selenoprotein.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology
  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology
  • Glutathione Peroxidase / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / pathology
  • Mice
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Neurons / pathology
  • Neuroprotection
  • Parkinson Disease / pathology
  • Rats
  • Schizophrenia / pathology
  • Selenium / metabolism*
  • Selenoproteins / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Transmission


  • Antioxidants
  • Selenoproteins
  • Glutathione Peroxidase
  • Selenium