The metabolic significance of Se in plants is not well documented, though the presence of many selenoenzymes in bacteria and the essentiality of Se in higher animals is established. Since germination is an active process in plant growth and metabolism, the effect of Se was investigated in germinating Vigna radiata L, a nonaccumulating Sedeficient legume. Growth and protein were enhanced in seedlings supplemented with selenium (Se) as sodium selenite in the medium up to 1 μg/mL. The pattern of uptake of75Se in the differentiating tissues and the subcellular distribution were investigated. The percentage of incorporation of75Se was greater in the mitochondria at the lowest level (0.5 μg/mL) of Se supplementation compared to higher levels of Se exposure. Proteins precipitated from the postmitochondrial supernatant fractions, when separated by means of polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (PAGE), indicated a major selenoprotein in the seedlings germinated at 2.0 μg/mL Se. In seedlings grown with supplemented Se, enhanced respiratory control ratio and succinate dehydrogenase activity were observed in the mitochondria of tissues, indicative of a role for Se in mitochondrial membrane functions. © 1995 Humana Press Inc.