Biochemistry, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version



RNA (2007), 13:921–929;


U.S. Government Work


Selenocysteine insertion into protein in mammalian cells requires RNA elements in the 3'-untranslated regions (3'-UTRs) of selenoprotein genes. The occurrence of these conserved sequences should make selenoproteins particularly amenable for knockdown/knock-in strategies to examine selenoprotein functions. Herein, we utilized the 3'-UTR of various selenoproteins to knock down their expression using siRNAs and then knock in expression using constructs containing mutations within the target region. Thioredoxin reductase 1 (TR1) knockdown in a mouse kidney cell line resulted in the cells growing about 10% more slowly, being more sensitive to UV radiation, and having increased apoptosis in response to UV than control cells. The knockdown cells transfected with a construct encoding the wild-type TR1 gene and having mutations in the sequences targeted by siRNA restored TR1 expression and catalytic activity, rendered the knockdown cells less sensitive to UV, and protected the cells against apoptosis. We also applied this technique to other selenoproteins, selenophosphate synthetase 2 and glutathione peroxidase 1, and found that mRNA and protein levels were restored following transfection of knockdown cells with the corresponding knock-in constructs. In addition to important new insights into the functions of key mammalian selenoproteins, the data suggest that the RNAi-based knock-in technology could distinguish phenotypes due to off-targeting and provide a new method for examining many of the subtleties of selenoprotein function not available using RNAi technology alone.