Significance: Bioinformatics has brought important insights into the field of selenium research. The progress made in the development of computational tools in the last two decades, coordinated with growing genome resources, provided new opportunities to study selenoproteins. The present review discusses existing tools for selenoprotein gene finding and other bioinformatic approaches to study the biology of selenium. Recent Advances: The availability of complete selenoproteomes allowed assessing a global distribution of the use of selenocysteine (Sec) across the tree of life, as well as studying the evolution of selenoproteins and their biosynthetic pathway. Beyond gene identification and characterization, human genetic variants in selenoprotein genes were used to examine adaptations to selenium levels in diverse human populations and to estimate selective constraints against gene loss. Critical Issues: The synthesis of selenoproteins is essential for development in mice. In humans, several mutations in selenoprotein genes have been linked to rare congenital disorders. And yet, the mechanism of Sec insertion and the regulation of selenoprotein synthesis in mammalian cells are not completely understood. Future Directions: Omics technologies offer new possibilities to study selenoproteins and mechanisms of Sec incorporation in cells, tissues, and organisms.
Keywords: UGA codon; bioinformatics; gene prediction; recoding; selenocysteine; selenoprotein.