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Selenium and antioxidant defenses as major mediators in the development of chronic heart failure

Abstract  Increased oxidative stress is involved in the pathogenesis of chronic heart failure (CHF), the common end result of most cardiac diseases. Selenium is an “essential” trace element, which means that it must be supplied by our daily diet and that its blood and tissue concentrations are extremely low. Selenium has a variety of functions. It is a key component of several functional selenoproteins required for normal health. The best known of these are the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase (GPx) enzymes, which remove hydrogen peroxide and the harmful lipid hydroperoxides generated in vivo by oxygen-derived species. GPx deficiency exacerbates endothelial dysfunction, a major contributing factor in the severity of CHF symptoms, in various conditions such as hyperhomocysteinemia. This suggests that homocysteine may be involved in the CHF associated endothelial dysfunction through a peroxide-dependent oxidative mechanism. Selenium also plays a role in the control of thyroid hormone metabolism and in protection against organic and inorganic mercury. One possible additional mechanism by which low selenium may compromise cardiovascular condition may be through the effect of selenium on the synthesis and activity of deiodinases, enzymes converting thyroxin into the biologically active triiodothyronine. Selenium and iodine actually interact in cardiovascular physiology, and further studies are needed to examine their role, in isolation and in association, in the development of CHF. Thus, selenium (through its role in selenoenzymes, thyroid hormones, and interactions with homocysteine and endothelial function) appears to be a major mediator in several pathways potentially contributing to CHF development.