Adequate intake of the essential trace element and micronutrient selenium is thought to be beneficial for maintaining human health. Selenium may modulate a broad spectrum of key biological processes, including the cellular response to oxidative stress, redox signalling, cellular differentiation, the immune response, and protein folding. Biochemical and cellular effects of selenium are achieved through activities of selenocysteine-containing selenoproteins. This small yet essential group comprises proteins encoded by 25 genes in humans, e.g. oxidoreductases such as glutathione peroxidases (GPx) and thioredoxin reductases (TrxR), as well as the iodothyronine deiodinases (DIO) and the plasma selenium transport protein, selenoprotein P (SePP1). Synthetic selenoorganic compounds, including the GPx mimetic ebselen, have also been applied in biological systems in vitro and in vivo; antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions of ebselen and its history as a drug candidate are summarised here. Furthermore, we discuss several aspects of selenoprotein biochemistry, ranging from their well-known importance for cellular protection against oxidative damage to more recent data that link selenoprotein expression/activity to enterocyte and adipocyte differentiation and function and to (dys)regulation of insulin action and secretion.
Keywords: Diabetes; Differentiation; Ebselen; Glutathione peroxidase; Oxidative stress; Selenoprotein P.
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