Molecular Mechanisms by Which Selenoprotein K Regulates Immunity and Cancer

  • Michael P. Marciel
  • Peter R. HoffmannEmail author


Many of the 25 members of the selenoprotein family function as enzymes that utilize their selenocysteine (Sec) residues to catalyze redox-based reactions. However, some selenoproteins likely do not exert enzymatic activity by themselves and selenoprotein K (SELENOK) is one such selenoprotein family member that uses its Sec residue in an alternative manner. SELENOK is an endoplasmic reticulum (ER) transmembrane protein that has been shown to be important for ER stress and for calcium-dependent signaling. Molecular mechanisms for the latter have recently been elucidated using knockout mice and genetically manipulated cell lines. These studies have shown that SELENOK interacts with an enzyme in the ER membrane, DHHC6 (letters represent the amino acids aspartic acid, histidine, histidine, and cysteine in the catalytic domain), and the SELENOK/DHHC6 complex catalyzes the transfer of acyl groups such as palmitate to cysteine residues in target proteins, i.e., palmitoylation. One protein palmitoylated by SELENOK/DHHC6 is the calcium channel protein, the inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor (IP3R), which is acylated as a means for stabilizing the tetrameric calcium channel in the ER membrane. Factors that lower SELENOK levels or function impair IP3R-driven calcium flux. This role for SELENOK is important for the activation and proliferation of immune cells, and recently, a critical role for SELENOK in promoting calcium flux for the progression of melanoma has been demonstrated. This review provides a summary of these findings and their implications in terms of designing new therapeutic interventions that target SELENOK for treating cancers like melanoma.


Palmitoylation Calcium Selenium Selenoprotein Inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor Cancer therapy 


Funding Information

This research was supported by NIAID/NIH grant R01AI089999.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, John A. Burns School of MedicineUniversity of HawaiiHonoluluUSA

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