Selenium, an essential trace element, is a component of prokaryotic and eukaryotic antioxidant proteins. A candidate selenoprotein homologous to glutathione peroxidase was deduced from the sequence of molluscum contagiosum, a poxvirus that causes persistent skin neoplasms in children and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) patients. Selenium was incorporated into this protein during biosynthesis, and a characteristic stem-loop structure near the end of the messenger RNA was required for alternative selenocysteine decoding of a potential UGA stop codon within the open reading frame. The selenoprotein protected human keratinocytes against cytotoxic effects of ultraviolet irradiation and hydrogen peroxide, providing a mechanism for a virus to defend itself against environmental stress.
ASJC Scopus subject areas