Selenocysteine Biosynthesis, Selenoproteins, and Selenoproteomes

Part of the Nucleic Acids and Molecular Biology book series (NUCLEIC, volume 24)


Selenocysteine (Sec), the 21st amino acid in the genetic code, is encoded by UGA. The pathway of Sec biosynthesis in eukaryotes has only recently been discovered. Sec is constructed on its tRNA that is initially aminoacylated with serine and modified to a phosphoseryl-tRNA intermediate with the help of several dedicated enzymes. More than 50 selenoprotein families are now known with most selenoproteins being oxidoreductases. Development of bioinformatics tools led to the identification of entire sets of selenoproteins in organisms, selenoproteomes, which in turn helped explain biological and biomedical effects of dietary selenium and identify new functions of selenium in biology. Roles of selenium and selenoproteins in health have also been addressed through sophisticated transgenic/knockout models that targeted removal or modulation of Sec tRNA expression.


Genetic Code Code Word SECIS Element Selenoprotein Gene Selenoprotein Synthesis 



The authors express their sincere appreciation to Bradley A. Carlson for his help with the figures and proofreading of the manuscript, Joyce Ore for proofreading, and Alexey V. Lobanov and Dmitri E. Fomenko for help with the figures. This research was supported by NIH grants to VNG and by the intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, Center for Cancer Research, to DLH.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biochemistry and Redox Biology CenterUniversity of NebraskaLincolnUSA
  2. 2.Molecular Biology of Selenium Section, Laboratory of Cancer Prevention, Center for Cancer ResearchNational Cancer Institute, National Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA

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