Dietary supplementation of selenium in inorganic and organic forms differentially and commonly alters blood and liver selenium concentrations and liver gene expression profiles of growing beef heifers

Shengfa F. Liao, Kelly R. Brown, Arnold J. Stromberg, Walter R. Burris, James A. Boling, James C. Matthews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


In geographic regions where selenium (Se) soil concentrations are naturally low, the addition of Se to animal feed is necessary. Even though it is known that Se in grass and forage crops is primarily present in organic forms (especially as L-selenomethionine, L-selenocystine, and L-selenocystathionine), the feeding of Se in the naturally occurring organic selenium (OSe) compounds produces higher blood and tissue Se levels than the inorganic Se (ISe) salts, and that animal metabolism of OSe and ISe is fundamentally different. Se is commonly added in inorganic form as sodium selenite to cattle feeds because it is a less expensive source of supplemental Se then are OSe forms. A trial was conducted with growing cattle to determine if the addition of OSe versus ISe forms of Se in beef cattle feed produces differences in hepatic gene expression, thereby gaining insight into the metabolic consequence of feeding OSe versus ISe. Thirty maturing Angus heifers (261±6 days) were fed a corn silage-based diet with no Se supplementation for 75 days. Heifers (body weight=39±9 kg) then were randomly assigned (n=10) and fed Se supplements that contained none (control) or 3 mg Se/day in ISe (sodium selenite) or OSe (Sel-Plex®) form and enough of a common cracked corn/cottonseed hull-based diet (0.48 mg Se/day) to support 0.5 kg/day growth for 105 or 106 days. More Se was found in jugular whole blood and red blood cells and biopsied liver tissue of ISe and OSe treatment animals than control animals, and OSe animals contained more Se in these tissues than did ISe. Microarray and bioinformatic analyses of liver tissue gene expression revealed that the content of at least 80 mRNA were affected by ISe or OSe treatments, including mRNA associated with nutrient metabolism; cellular growth, proliferation, and immune response; cell communication or signaling; and tissue/organ development and function. Overall, three Se supplement-dependent gene groups were identified: ISe-dependent, OSe-dependent, and Se form-independent. More specifically, both forms of supplementation appeared to upregulate mitochondrial gene expression capacity, whereas gene expression of a protein involved in antiviral capacity was downregulated in ISe-supplemented animals, and OSe-supplemented animals had reduced levels of mRNA encoding proteins known to be upregulated during oxidative stress and cancerous states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-169
Number of pages19
JournalBiological Trace Element Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the University of Kentucky-Alltech Nutrigenomics Alliance (JCM), NIH (NCRR-P20 RR16481 and NIEHS-2P42 ES007380-12; AJS), University of Kentucky, and Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station (publication no. 10-07-027). S.F.Liao.K.R.Brown.W.R.Burris.J.A.Boling.J.C.Matthews(*) Department of Animal and Food Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40546, USA e-mail: [email protected]


  • Blood
  • Bovine
  • Liver
  • Microarray
  • Nutrient-gene interaction
  • Selenium supplementation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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