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What causes a neuron to die? Investigating the essential role of selenium nutrition in neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s

Selenium is an essential trace element required for normal development. Curiously, out of the entire human genome of ~22,000 genes we only have 25 genes that encode for selenium containing proteins.

Aims

This project involves the use of modern cutting edge ‘omics’ technology (e.g. Proteomics and Metallomics) to investigate the role of selenium containing proteins in human Alzheimer’s disease tissue.

This indicates an evolutionarily conserved function for selenium proteins. We have recently connected a newly discovered pathway for cell death known as ferroptosis to a key antioxidant selenium enzyme. The enzyme is known as glutathione peroxidase 4 (GPX4) and is a master regulator of ferroptoisis. 

Ferroptosis was discovered as a new form of cell death in cancer cells. Oxidative stress and selenium nutrition are intimately linked to the incidence and progression of cancer.

The brain has a unique requirement for selenium and the levels of selenium in brain tissue are implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease.

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