, Volume 168, Issue 5, pp 421-427

The path of unspecific incorporation of selenium in Escherichia coli

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The path of unspecific selenium incorporation into proteins was studied in Escherichia coli mutants blocked in the biosynthesis of cysteine and methionine or altered in its regulation. Selenium incorporation required all enzymatic steps of cysteine biosynthesis except sulfite reduction, indicating that intracellular reduction of selenite occurs nonenzymatically. Cysteine (but not methionine) supplementation prevented unspecific incorporation of selenium by repressing cysteine biosynthesis. On the other hand, when the biosynthesis of cysteine was derepressed in regulatory mutants, selenium was incorporated to high levels. These findings and the fact that methionine auxotrophic strains still displayed unspecific incorporation show that selenium incorporation into proteins in E. coli occurs mainly as selenocysteine. These findings also provide information on the labeling conditions for incorporating 75Se only and specifically into selenoproteins.

Received: 2 May 1997 / Accepted: 23 June 1997