Oxidation of glutathione and superoxide generation by inorganic and organic selenium compounds

Jau Jiin Chen, L. Mallory Boylan, Chih Kang Wu, Julian E. Spallholz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


The carcinostatic activities of selenium (Se) compounds have been shown to be composition and concentration dependent. Several studies have indicated that the ratios between glutathione (GSH) and Se may play an important role in Se catalysis and toxicity. The present study examined the catalytic effect of three selenium compounds on GSH oxidation using lucigenin-dependent chemiluminescence (CL) as an indirect measure of superoxide generation. Various GSH:Se ratios were assayed for the glutathione oxidase activity of selenite, selenocystamine and diselenodipropionic acid. CL emitted from the reaction of selenite with GSH increased more rapidly and was greater than those from the diselenides, but the diselenide CL reactions were sustainable. Both selenite- and diselenide-induced CL were markedly suppressed by superoxide dismutase (SOD). Iodoacetic acid (IAc) effectively inhibited CL generated from selenite-, selenocystamine- and diselenodipropionic acid-catalyzed GSH oxidation. These results suggest that GSH oxidation catalyzed by selenite, and the diselenides selenocystamine and diselenodipropionic acid, generated the superoxide radical in which the CL was inhibited by SOD. Furthermore, CL inhibition by IAc suggests that the catalytic species producing superoxide were the GSSe^{-} or RSe^{-} anion. This redox chemistry may be responsible for selenite and organoselenium toxicity and apoptosis, making possible the design and synthesis of organoselenium-containing pharmaceuticals.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-66
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2007


  • Chemiluminescence
  • Diselenodipropionic acid
  • Glutathione
  • Iodoacetic acid
  • Selenite
  • Selenocystamine
  • Superoxide
  • Superoxide dismutase


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