The molecular basis of the metabolism of selenium – a trace element that is key to human health – has been discovered and detailed in a new article.
The study described in a recent issue of the journal Science explains selenium is believed to offer protection from conditions such as mood swings, cardiovascular disease, viral infections and cancer.
Researchers from Yale University and University of Illinois at Chicago have shown how selenocysteine – the most bioactive metabolite of selenium – is created on a super-sized tRNA molecule. The other 20 amino acids and their associated tRNAs use the same protein vehicle for transport to the ribosome, but selenocystine appears to have its own large tRNA that does so.
Michael Bender of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences says the compound is a critical component of enzymes involved in a number of physiological and pathological processes.
"This study could ultimately have an impact on many aspects of human health, including the immune response, neurodegeneration, cardiovascular disease and cancer," he stresses.
The study may prompt some people to complement their diet with selenium supplements.