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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Mechanisms of selenium methylation and toxicity in mice treated with selenocystine.

Mechanisms of selenium methylation and toxicity were investigated in the liver of ICR male mice treated with selenocystine. To elucidate the selenium methylation mechanism, animals received a single oral administration of selenocystine (Se-Cys; 5, 10, 20, 30, 40, or 50 mg/kg). In the liver, both accumulation of total selenium and production of trimethylselenonium (TMSe) as the end-product of methylation were increased by the dose of Se-Cys. A negative correlation was found between production of TMSe and level of S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) as methyl donor. The relationship between Se-Cys toxicity and selenium methylation was determined by giving mice repeated oral administration of Se-Cys (10 or 20 mg/kg) for 10 days. The animals exposed only to the high dose showed a significant rise of aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase ( ALT) activities in plasma. Urinary total selenium increased with Se-Cys dose. TMSe content in urine represented 85% of total selenium at the low dose and 25% at the high dose. The potential of Se-methylation and activity of methionine adenosyltransferase, the enzyme responsible for SAM synthesis, and the level of SAM in the liver were determined. The high dose resulted in inactivation of Se-methylation and decrease in SAM level due to the inhibition of methionine adenosyltransferase activity. To learn whether hepatic toxicity is induced by depressing selenium methylation ability, mice were injected intraperitoneally with periodate-oxidized adenosine (100 mumol/kg), a known potent inhibitor of the SAM-dependent methyltransferase, at 30 min before oral treatment of Se-Cys (10, 20, of 50 mg/kg). Liver toxicity induced by selenocystine was enhanced by inhibition of selenium methylation. These results suggest that TMSe was produced by SAM-dependent methyltransferases, which are identical with those involved in the methylation of inorganic selenium compounds such as selenite, in the liver of mice orally administered Se-Cys. Depression of selenium methylation ability resulting from inactivation of methionine adenosyltransferase and Se-methylation via enzymic reaction was also found in mice following repeated oral administration of a toxic dose of Se-Cys. The excess selenides accumulating during the depression of selenium methylation ability may be involved in the liver toxicity caused by Se-Cys.[1]


  1. Mechanisms of selenium methylation and toxicity in mice treated with selenocystine. Hasegawa, T., Mihara, M., Nakamuro, K., Sayato, Y. Arch. Toxicol. (1996) [Pubmed]
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