Role of Zinc and Selenium in Oxidative Stress and Immunosenescence: Implications for Healthy Ageing and Longevity

  • Eugenio Mocchegiani
  • Marco Malavolta


Ageing is an inevitable biological process with gradual and spontaneous biochemical and physiological changes and increased susceptibility to diseases. Some nutritional factors (zinc and selenium) may remodel these changes leading to a possible escaping of diseases with subsequent healthy ageing, because they are especially involved in improving immune functions as well as antioxidant defense. Experiments performed “in vitro” (human lymphocytes exposed to endotoxins) and “in vivo” (old mice or young mice fed with low zinc dietary intake) show that zinc is important for immune response both innate and adoptive. Selenium provokes zinc release by Metallothioneins (MT), via reduction of glutathione peroxidase. This fact is crucial in ageing because high MT may be unable to release zinc with subsequent low intracellular free zinc ion availability for immune response. Taking into account the existence of zinc transporters (ZnT and ZIP family) for cellular zinc efflux and influx, respectively, the association between ZnT and MT is important in maintaining satisfactory intracellular zinc homeostasis in ageing. Improved immune performance occur in elderly after physiological zinc supplementation, which also induces prolonged survival in old, nude and neonatal thymectomized mice. The association “zinc plus selenium” improves humoral immunity in old subjects after influenza vaccination. Therefore, zinc and selenium are relevant for immunosenescence in order to achieve healthy ageing and longevity.


Zinc Deficiency Zinc Supplementation Selenium Deficiency Zinc Transporter Selenium Status 
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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eugenio Mocchegiani
    • 1
  • Marco Malavolta
    • 1
  1. 1.Immunology Ctr. section Nutrigenomic and Immunosenescence Res Dept. INRCAAnconaItaly

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