The present study was undertaken to investigate the effects of selenite (SeIV) and selenate (SeVI) on the all-trans retinoic acid (RA)-nuclear retinoic acid receptor (RAR) complex formation in rat liver. We also present the data on the in vitro effects of SeIV on the RARalpha and the type I iodothyronine 5'-deiodinase gene expression in the GH4C1 rat pituitary tumor cells. SeIV at 1.0 micromol/L was found to reduce (p < 0.05) the RA specific binding to RAR in rat liver. Dithiothreitol (DTT), a protective agent for sulfhydryl groups, was found to be slightly effective in protecting the RAR binding properties when affected by SeIV. SeVI at 0.1 micromol/L reduced (p < 0.05) the RA specific binding to RAR in liver, as well. Seleno-L-methionine (Se-II) when compared to L-methionine did not exert any inhibitory effect on the formation of the RA-RAR complex. SeIV (up to 2.5 micromol/L) has no inhibitory effect on GH4C1 cell proliferation as well as the prolactin secretion. SeIV at 1.0 micromol/L significantly decreases the rate of mRNA synthesis and/or degradation of the alpha form of the RAR and causes the enhancement of the type I iodothyronine 5'-deiodinase gene expression in GH4C1 cells. The results based on in vitro experiments suggest that inorganic selenium may affect the RA specific binding to their cognate receptor molecules, and it may reduce expression of the gene encoding the RARalpha, with the cell vitality and the cell growth remaining unchanged.