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The possible relationship of selenium to immunological function which has been suggested for decades was investigated in studies on selenuim metabolism in human T cells. One of the major 75Se-labeled selenoproteins detected was purified to homogeneity and shown to be a homodimer of 55-kDa subunits. Each subunit contained about 1 FAD and at least 0.74 Se. This protein proved to be thioredoxin reductase (TR) on the basis of its catalytic activities, cross-reactivity with anti-rat liver TR antibodies, and sequence identities of several tryptic peptides with the published deduced sequence of human placental TR. Physicochemical characteristics of T-cell TR were similar to those of a selenocysteine (Secys)- containing TR recently isolated from human lung adenocarcinoma cells. The sequence of a 12-residue 75Se-labeled tryptic peptide from T-cell TR was identical with a C-terminaldeduced sequence of human placental TR except that Secys was present in the position corresponding to TGA, previously thought to be the termination codon, and this was followed by Gly-499, the actual C-terminal amino acid. The presence of the unusual conserved Cys-Secys-Gly sequence at the C terminus of TR in addition to the redox active cysteines of the Cys-Val- Asn-Val-Gly-Cys motif in the FAD-binding region may account for the peroxidase activity and the relatively low substrate specificity of mammalian TRs. The finding that T-cell TR is a selenoenzyme that contains Se in a conserved Cterminal region provides another example of the role of selenium in a major antioxidant enzyme system (i.e., thioredoxin- thioredoxin reductase), in addition to the well-known glutathione peroxidase enzyme system.