Selenium: More than Just a Fortuitous Sulfur Substitute in Redox Biology

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


Living organisms use selenium mainly in the form of selenocysteine in the active site of oxidoreductases. Here, selenium’s unique chemistry is believed to modulate the reaction mechanism and enhance the catalytic efficiency of specific enzymes in ways not achievable with a sulfur-containing cysteine. However, despite the fact that selenium/sulfur have different physicochemical properties, several selenoproteins have fully functional cysteine-containing homologues and some organisms do not use selenocysteine at all. In this review, selected selenocysteine-containing proteins will be discussed to showcase both situations: (i) selenium as an obligatory element for the protein’s physiological function, and (ii) selenium presenting no clear advantage over sulfur (functional proteins with either selenium or sulfur). Selenium’s physiological roles in antioxidant defence (to maintain cellular redox status/hinder oxidative stress), hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, and repair (maintain genetic stability) will be also highlighted, as well as selenium’s role in human health. Formate dehydrogenases, hydrogenases, glutathione peroxidases, thioredoxin reductases, and iodothyronine deiodinases will be herein featured.
Original languageEnglish
Article number120
Number of pages36
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 24 Dec 2023


  • formate dehydrogenases
  • glutathione peroxidases
  • human health
  • hydrogenases
  • iodothyronine deiodinases
  • selenium in biology
  • selenoproteins
  • thioredoxin reductases


Dive into the research topics of 'Selenium: More than Just a Fortuitous Sulfur Substitute in Redox Biology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this