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Research Projects

Peter Hoffmann


Dr. Peter Hoffmann, University of Hawaii
Peter R. Hoffmann, Ph.D.
Department of Cell and Molecular Biology
John A. Burns School of Medicine


Lab Manager FuKun Hoffmann with Graduate Student Jeff Fay
Lab Manager FuKun Hoffmann with Graduate Student Jeff Fay


Graduate Student Aaron Rose
Graduate Student Aaron Rose


Huang Zhi
Visiting Faculty Huang Zhi from Jinan University, Guangzhou, P. R. China

Effects of Dietary Selenium on the Development of Asthma

The research interests of our laboratory involve dietary selenium (Se), selenoproteins, and immune responses. Dietary Se is a potent antioxidant that carries out its biological functions through the actions of selenoproteins, and there are 25 selenoproteins in humans that exhibit a wide variety of functions. We have written reviews describing the influences of Se and selenoproteins on immune responses. Interestingly, more than half of the selenoproteins have no function that has been identified. Thus, a major of our laboratory involves elucidating functions of specific selenoproteins for which no function has yet been identified. Our laboratory has used a mouse model of asthma to investigate the effects of dietary Se on the development of asthma. In particular, standard C57BL/6 mice maintained on diets with low (0.08 ppm), medium (0.25 ppm), or high (2.7 ppm) levels of Se were subjected to intra-nasal challenges with ovalbumin (OVA). The mice were evaluated using several different parameters for severity of allergic asthma and results demonstrated that mice fed low Se diets had low levels of asthma, while mice fed medium levels of Se had the highest levels of asthma (Fig. 1). Surprisingly, increasing Se in the diet from medium to high levels lowered the levels of asthma. These data have led to a new perspective on the relationship between Se and asthma (Fig. 2). We have also identified free thiols as a mechanism by which dietary Se affects T cell activation. Finally, our ground-breaking work on selenoprotein K (Sel K) involving the novel Sel K knockout mouse was published in the Journal of Immunology (Fig. 3-4). Our current investigations are focused on the role this selenoprotein plays in calcium flux during the activation of immune cells.

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Figure 1

Figure 1.


Figure 2

Figure 2.


Click for larger view

Figure 3.

Figure 4

Figure 4.


Recent Publications

Hoffmann PR, Kench JA, Vondracek A, Kruk E, Daleke DL, Jordan M, Marrack P, Henson PM, Fadok VA. Interaction between phosphatidylserine and the phosphatidylserine receptor inhibits immune responses in vivo. J Immunol 2005;174(3):1393-1404.

Hoffmann PR, Berry MJ. Selenoprotein synthesis: A unique translational mechanism used by a diverse family of proteins. Thyroid 2005;15(8): 771-777.

Hoffmann PR, Hoge SC, Li PA, Hoffmann FW, Hashimoto AC, Berry MJ. The selenoproteome exhibits widely varying, tissue-specific dependence on selenoprotein P for selenium supply. Nucleic Acids Res. 2007; 35(12):3963-3973 (PMC1919489).

Hoffmann PR, Jourdan-Le Saux C, Hoffmann FW, Chang PS, Bollt O, He Q, Tam EK, Berry MJ. A role for dietary selenium and selenoproteins in allergic airway inflammation. J Immunol. 2007 Sep 1;179(5):3258-67.

Hoffmann PR, Gurary A, Hoffmann FW, Jourdan-Le Saux C, Teeters K, Hashimoto AC, Tam EK, Berry MJ. A new approach for analyzing cellular infiltration during allergic airway inflammation. J Immunol Methods. 2007; 328:21-33 (PMC2864229).

Hoffmann PR, Berry MJ. The influence of selenium on immune responses. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2008 Jul; 63(7):854-6. 12. Hoffmann, PR. Selenium and asthma: a complex relationship. Allergy 2008 Jul;63(7):854-6.

Reeves, M and Hoffmann, PR. Recent insights into regulation and functions of selenoproteins. Cell Mol Life Sci 2009 Aug;66(15):2457-78 (PMC2866081).

Hoffmann FW, Hashimoto AC, Shafer LA, Dow S, Berry MJ, Hoffmann PR. Dietary selenium modulates activation and differentiation of CD4+ T cells in mice through a mechanism involving cellular free thiols. J Nutr 2010 Jun;140: 1155-1161 (PMC2869499).

Verma S, Hoffmann FW, Kumar M, Huang Z, Roe K, Nguyen-Wu E, Hashimoto AS, and Hoffmann PR. Selenoprotein K knockout mice exhibit deficient calcium flux in immune cells and impaired immune responses. J Immunol 2011 Feb;186(4) [Epub ahead of print].

The University of Hawaii RCMI Program (G12RR003061) is funded by the Research Centers in Minority Institutions Program, an initiative of the National Center for Research Resources at the National Institutes of Health.