Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Genomics and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Evolution of selenoproteins in the metazoan

Liang Jiang12, Jiazuan Ni1 and Qiong Liu1*

Author Affiliations

1 College of Life Sciences, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, 518060, Guangdong Province, PR, China

2 College of Optoelectronic Engineering, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen, 518060, Guangdong Province PR, China

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Genomics 2012, 13:446  doi:10.1186/1471-2164-13-446

Published: 3 September 2012



The selenocysteine (Sec) containing proteins, selenoproteins, are an important group of proteins present throughout all 3 kingdoms of life. With the rapid progression of selenoprotein research in the post-genomic era, application of bioinformatics methods to the identification of selenoproteins in newly sequenced species has become increasingly important. Although selenoproteins in human and other vertebrates have been investigated, studies of primitive invertebrate selenoproteomes are rarely reported outside of insects and nematodes.


A more integrated view of selenoprotein evolution was constructed using several representative species from different evolutionary eras. Using a SelGenAmic-based selenoprotein identification method, 178 selenoprotein genes were identified in 6 invertebrates: Amphimedon queenslandica, Trichoplax adhaerens, Nematostella vectensis, Lottia gigantean, Capitella teleta, and Branchiostoma floridae. Amphioxus was found to have the most abundant and variant selenoproteins of any animal currently characterized, including a special selenoprotein P (SelP) possessing 3 repeated Trx-like domains and Sec residues in the N-terminal and 2 Sec residues in the C-terminal. This gene structure suggests the existence of two different strategies for extension of Sec numbers in SelP for the preservation and transportation of selenium. In addition, novel eukaryotic AphC-like selenoproteins were identified in sponges.


Comparison of various animal species suggests that even the most primitive animals possess a selenoproteome range and variety similar to humans. During evolutionary history, only a few new selenoproteins have emerged and few were lost. Furthermore, the massive loss of selenoproteins in nematodes and insects likely occurred independently in isolated partial evolutionary branches.

Selenoprotein; Selenocysteine; Metazoan; Evolution; Bioinformatics