Selenophosphate synthetase 1 and its role in redox homeostasis, defense and proliferation

Free Radic Biol Med. 2018 Nov 1:127:190-197. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2018.04.577. Epub 2018 Apr 30.


Selenophosphate synthetase (SEPHS) synthesizes selenophosphate, the active selenium donor, using ATP and selenide as substrates. SEPHS was initially identified and isolated from bacteria and has been characterized in many eukaryotes and archaea. Two SEPHS paralogues, SEPHS1 and SEPHS2, occur in various eukaryotes, while prokaryotes and archaea have only one form of SEPHS. Between the two isoforms in eukaryotes, only SEPHS2 shows catalytic activity during selenophosphate synthesis. Although SEPHS1 does not contain any significant selenophosphate synthesis activity, it has been reported to play an essential role in regulating cellular physiology. Prokaryotic SEPHS contains a cysteine or selenocysteine (Sec) at the catalytic domain. However, in eukaryotes, SEPHS1 contains other amino acids such as Thr, Arg, Gly, or Leu at the catalytic domain, and SEPHS2 contains only a Sec. Sequence comparisons, crystal structure analyses, and ATP hydrolysis assays suggest that selenophosphate synthesis occurs in two steps. In the first step, ATP is hydrolyzed to produce ADP and gamma-phosphate. In the second step, ADP is further hydrolyzed and selenophosphate is produced using gamma-phosphate and selenide. Both SEPHS1 and SEPHS2 have ATP hydrolyzing activities, but Cys or Sec is required in the catalytic domain for the second step of reaction. The gene encoding SEPHS1 is divided by introns, and five different splice variants are produced by alternative splicing in humans. SEPHS1 mRNA is abundant in rapidly proliferating cells such as embryonic and cancer cells and its expression is induced by various stresses including oxidative stress and salinity stress. The disruption of the SEPHS1 gene in mice or Drosophila leads to the inhibition of cell proliferation, embryonic lethality, and morphological changes in the embryos. Targeted removal of SEPHS1 mRNA in insect, mouse, and human cells also leads to common phenotypic changes similar to those observed by in vivo gene knockout: the inhibition of cell growth/proliferation, the accumulation of hydrogen peroxide in mammals and an unidentified reactive oxygen species (ROS) in Drosophila, and the activation of a defense system. Hydrogen peroxide accumulation in SEPHS1-deficient cells is mainly caused by the down-regulation of genes involved in ROS scavenging, and leads to the inhibition of cell proliferation and survival. However, the mechanisms underlying SEPHS1 regulation of redox homeostasis are still not understood.

Keywords: Cancer; Cell proliferation; Defense; Development; Innate immunity; Reactive oxygen species; Selenium; Selenocysteine; Selenophosphate; Selenophosphate synthetase; Stress.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation / physiology*
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Phosphotransferases / physiology


  • Phosphotransferases
  • SEPHS1 protein, human
  • selenophosphate synthetase