Selenium deficiency for periods of 5 or 6 weeks in rats produced an inhibition of tri-iodothyronine (T3) production from added thyroxine (T4) in brain, liver and kidney homogenate. This inhibition was reflected in plasma T4 and T3 concentrations, which were respectively increased and decreased in selenium-deficient animals. Although plasma T4 levels increased in selenium-deficient animals, this did not produce the normal feedback inhibition on thyrotropin release from the pituitary. Selenium deficiency was confirmed in the animals by decreased selenium-dependent glutathione peroxidase (Se-GSH-Px) activity in all of these tissues. Administration of selenium, as a single intraperitoneal injection of 200 micrograms of selenium (as Na2SeO3)/kg body weight completely reversed the effects of selenium deficiency on thyroid-hormone metabolism and partly restored the activity of Se-GSH-Px. Selenium administration at 10 micrograms/kg body weight had no significant effect on thyroid-hormone metabolism or on Se-GSH-Px activity in any of the tissues studied. The characteristic changes in plasma thyroid-hormone levels that occurred in selenium deficiency appeared not to be due to non-specific stress factors, since food restriction to 75% of normal intake or vitamin E deficiency produced no significant changes in plasma T4 or T3 concentration. These data are consistent with the view that the Type I and Type II iodothyronine deiodinase enzymes are seleno-enzymes or require selenium-containing cofactors for activity.

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