Although selenium, an essential trace element and a component of glutathione peroxidase, is known to protect the heart from ischemia-repefusion (I/R)-induced injury, the mechanisms of this protection are not fully understood. For this purpose, isolated rat hearts were subjected to 30 min of global ischemia followed by 30 min of reperfusion; sodium selenite (25-1,000 nM) was added in the perfusion medium 10 min prior to ischemia, as well as during reperfusion. Selenium caused a dose-dependent improvement in cardiac performance and attenuated the decrease in the ratio of reduced glutathione to oxidized glutathione, as well as the increased level of malondialdehyde in I/R heart. Elevated ratios of nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) in particulate and cytosolic fraction and of phosphorylated NF-κB and total NF-κB in I/R hearts were reduced by selenium. Cardiac dysfunction in hearts perfused with xanthine plus xanthine oxidase mixture, as well as hydrogen peroxide, or subjected to Ca2+ paradox was also attenuated by selenium. These data suggest that selenium protects the heart against I/R injury due to its action on the redox state and deactivation of NF-κB in I/R hearts. © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.