The Journal of biological chemistry

Mice lacking selenoprotein P and selenocysteine lyase exhibit severe neurological dysfunction, neurodegeneration, and audiogenic seizures.

PMID 24519931


Selenoproteins are a unique family of proteins, characterized by the co-translational incorporation of selenium as selenocysteine, which play key roles in antioxidant defense. Among selenoproteins, selenoprotein P (Sepp1) is particularly distinctive due to the fact that it contains multiple selenocysteine residues and has been postulated to act in selenium transport. Within the brain, Sepp1 delivers selenium to neurons by binding to the ApoER2 receptor. Upon feeding a selenium-deficient diet, mice lacking ApoER2 or Sepp1 develop severe neurological dysfunction and exhibit widespread brainstem neurodegeneration, indicating an important role for ApoER2-mediated Sepp1 uptake in normal brain function. Selenocysteine lyase (Scly) is an enzyme that plays an important role in selenium homeostasis, in that it catalyzes the decomposition of selenocysteine and allows selenium to be recycled for additional selenoprotein synthesis. We previously reported that constitutive deletion of Scly results in neurological deficits only when mice are challenged with a low selenium diet. To gain insight into the relationship between Sepp1 and Scly in selenium metabolism, we created novel transgenic mice constitutively lacking both genes (Scly(-/-)Sepp1(-/-)) and characterized the neurobehavioral phenotype. We report that deletion of Scly in conjunction with Sepp1 further aggravates the phenotype of Sepp1(-/-) mice, as these mice needed supraphysiological selenium supplementation to survive, and surviving mice exhibited impaired motor coordination, audiogenic seizures, and brainstem neurodegeneration. These findings provide the first in vivo evidence that Scly and Sepp1 work cooperatively to maintain selenoprotein function in the mammalian brain.