SARS-CoV-2 suppresses mRNA expression of selenoproteins associated with ferroptosis, endoplasmic reticulum stress and DNA synthesis

Food Chem Toxicol. 2021 Jul:153:112286. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2021.112286. Epub 2021 May 21.


Higher selenium status has been shown to improve the clinical outcome of infections caused by a range of evolutionally diverse viruses, including SARS-CoV-2. However, the impact of SARS-CoV-2 on host-cell selenoproteins remains elusive. The present study investigated the influence of SARS-CoV-2 on expression of selenoprotein mRNAs in Vero cells. SARS-CoV-2 triggered an inflammatory response as evidenced by increased IL-6 expression. Of the 25 selenoproteins, SARS-CoV-2 significantly suppressed mRNA expression of ferroptosis-associated GPX4, DNA synthesis-related TXNRD3 and endoplasmic reticulum-resident SELENOF, SELENOK, SELENOM and SELENOS. Computational analysis has predicted an antisense interaction between SARS-CoV-2 and TXNRD3 mRNA, which is translated with high efficiency in the lung. Here, we confirmed the predicted SARS-CoV-2/TXNRD3 antisense interaction in vitro using DNA oligonucleotides, providing a plausible mechanism for the observed mRNA knockdown. Inhibition of TXNRD decreases DNA synthesis which is thereby likely to increase the ribonucleotide pool for RNA synthesis and, accordingly, RNA virus production. The present findings provide evidence for a direct inhibitory effect of SARS-CoV-2 replication on the expression of a specific set of selenoprotein mRNAs, which merits further investigation in the light of established evidence for correlations between dietary selenium status and the outcome of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; Selenium; Selenoprotein; mRNA expression.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • DNA / biosynthesis*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / physiology*
  • Ferroptosis / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / physiology
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / physiology*
  • Selenoproteins / genetics
  • Selenoproteins / metabolism*
  • Vero Cells


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Selenoproteins
  • DNA