Selenium (Se) is an essential dietary trace element that plays an important role in the prevention of inflammation, cardiovascular diseases, infections, and cancer. Selenoproteins contain selenocysteine in the active center and include, i.a., the enzymes thioredoxin reductases (TXNRD1–3), glutathione peroxidases (GPX1–4 and GPX6) and methionine sulfoxide reductase, involved in immune functions, metabolic homeostasis, and antioxidant defense. Ageing is an inevitable process, which, i.a., involves an imbalance between antioxidative defense and reactive oxygen species (ROS), changes in protein and mitochondrial renewal, telomere attrition, cellular senescence, epigenetic alterations, and stem cell exhaustion. These conditions are associated with mild to moderate inflammation, which always accompanies the process of ageing and age-related diseases. In older individuals, Se, by being a component in protective enzymes, operates by decreasing ROS-mediated inflammation, removing misfolded proteins, decreasing DNA damage, and promoting telomere length. Se-dependent GPX1–4 and TXNRD1–3 directly suppress oxidative stress. Selenoprotein H in the cell nucleus protects DNA, and selenoproteins residing in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) assist in the removal of misfolded proteins and protection against ER stress. In this review, we highlight the role of adequate Se status for human ageing and prevention of age-related diseases, and further its proposed role in preservation of telomere length in middle-aged and elderly individuals.
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