The habitual intake of selenium (Se) varies strongly around the world, and many people are at risk of inadequate supply and health risks from Se deficiency. Within the human organism, efficient transport mechanisms ensure that organs with a high demand and relevance for reproduction and survival are preferentially supplied. To this end, selenoprotein P (SELENOP) is synthesized in the liver and mediates Se transport to essential tissues such as the endocrine glands and the brain, where the "SELENOP cycle" maintains a privileged Se status. Mouse models indicate that SELENOP is not essential for life, as supplemental Se supply was capable of preventing the development of severe symptoms. However, knockout mice died under limiting supply, arguing for an essential role of SELENOP in Se deficiency. Many clinical studies support this notion, pointing to close links between health risks and low SELENOP levels. Accordingly, circulating SELENOP concentrations serve as a functional biomarker of Se supply, at least until a saturated status is achieved and SELENOP levels reach a plateau. Upon toxic intake, a further increase in SELENOP is observed, i.e., SELENOP provides information about possible selenosis. The SELENOP transcripts predict an insertion of ten selenocysteine residues. However, the decoding is imperfect, and not all these positions are ultimately occupied by selenocysteine. In addition to the selenocysteine residues near the C-terminus, one selenocysteine resides central within an enzyme-like environment. SELENOP proved capable of catalyzing peroxide degradation in vitro and protecting e.g. LDL particles from oxidation. An enzymatic activity in the intact organism is unclear, but an increasing number of clinical studies provides evidence for a direct involvement of SELENOP-dependent Se transport as an important and modifiable risk factor of disease. This interaction is particularly strong for cardiovascular and critical disease including COVID-19, cancer at various sites and autoimmune thyroiditis. This review briefly highlights the links between the growing knowledge of Se in health and disease over the last 50 years and the specific advances that have been made in our understanding of the physiological and clinical contribution of SELENOP to the current picture.
Keywords: Autoimmune disease; Biomarker; COVID-19; Micronutrient; Redox cycling.
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