Metabolic Interactions of Selenium with Cadmium, Mercury, and Silver

Part of the Advances in Nutritional Research book series (ANUR, volume 7)


Until the discovery of the essentiality of selenium by- Schwarz and Foltz (1957), the only physiological significance of this element was thought to be its toxicity. The finding that selenium could prevent dietary liver necrosis in rats resulted in a reassessment of this element. Interestingly, this same year the properties of a newly discovered enzyme, glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px), were reproted (Mills, 1957). However, it took a decade and a half to discover that this enzyme has a relationship to selenium (Rotruck et al., 1973). GSH-Px has been shown to be a selenoenzyme, containing 4 g atoms of selenium/mole protein (Oh et al., 1974). Another equally important discovery was that selenium could counteract the toxicity of some heavy metals. Thus, this rather unusual feature of one element such as selenium, which is highly toxic itself at elevated levels, counteracting the toxicity of heavy metal stimulated intensive research on the relationship of selenium to other elements. The purpose of this review is to discuss some of the metabolic relationship of selenium to cadmium, mercury, and silver. A briefly discussion of some of these interactions has been presented previously (Ridlington and Whanger, 1981). Several reviews are available in the interactions of selenium with heavy metals, and these maybe useful for further reading (Parizek et al., 1971, 1974; Diplock, 1976; Rimerman et al., 1977; Whanger, 1981).


Inorganic Mercury High Molecular Weight Protein Metabolic Interaction Dietary Selenium Mercury Toxicity 
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© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agricultural ChemistryOregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA

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