Selenomethionine and Methioninase: Selenium Free Radical Anticancer Activity

  • Julian E. SpallholzEmail author
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1866)


Colloidal selenium, was first used to treat cancer as early as 1911 in both humans and mice. Selenium was identified as the toxic component in forage plants of sheep, cattle, and horses in the 1930s. The animal toxicity of selenium compounds was determined to be from the metabolism by animals of the elevated concentrations of Se-methylselenocysteine and selenomethionine in plants. The metabolism of both Se-methylselenocysteine and selenomethionine by animals gives rise to the metabolite, methylselenide (CH3Se-), which if in sufficient concentration oxidizes thiols and generates superoxide and other reactive oxygen species. Cancer cells that may overly express methionine gamma-lyase, or beta-lyase (methioninase), by induced viral genomic expression, are susceptible to free radical-induced apoptosis from selenomethionine or Se-methylselenocysteine supplementation.

Key words

Selenium Selenide Selenomethionnie Cancer Prevention Therapy 



This chapter is dedicated to Edgar N. Drake, PhD (1937–2017). Dr. Ed Drake was Chair and Professor of Chemistry at Angelo State University for many years. As an analytical chemist, he became interested in selenium analyses, and selenium as a chemoprevention dietary supplement. In 2001 he authored a book, “Selenium: Are You Getting Enough to Reduce Your Risk of Cancer?” He was thoroughly versed in selenium biochemistry and one of the early selenium scientists to recognize the pro-oxidant properties of selenium compounds (see Ref. 37). Following retirement, Ed and his wife Nina lived for many years in Estes Park, Colorado, and had a “Million-Dollar View” of Long’s Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. The author and his wife visited Ed and Nina in Estes Park both in summer and winter, where selenium was always a major conversation topic. He will be missed by the selenium community and the people that knew him.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Nutritional SciencesTexas Tech UniversityLubbockUSA

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