The objective of this study was to investigate the differential effects of various selenium (Se) compounds and Se-enriched broccoli extracts on cell proliferation and the possible mechanism responsible for the Se-induced growth inhibition. C6 rat glial cells were incubated with graded concentrations up to 1000 nM of selenite, selenate, selenomethionine (SeM), Se-methyl-selenocysteine (SeMCys), high-Se broccoli (H-SeB) extract or low-Se broccoli (L-SeB) extract for 24 and 48 h. MTT results indicated that all Se sources and levels examined inhibited C6 cell proliferation at 48 h. The results from cell cycle progression and apoptosis analysis indicated that SeM, SeMCys, H-SeB or L-SeB treatments at the concentration of 1000 nM reduced the cell population in G(0)/G(1) phase, but induced G(2)/M phase arrest and increased apoptosis and secondary necrosis in C6 cells at 24 h. The populations of apoptotic cells and secondary necrotic cells were increased by all Se sources examined. The COMET assay indicated that there was no significant DNA single-strand break found for all Se treatments in C6 cells for 48 h. In addition, the Se-induced proliferation inhibition may involve a hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2))-dependent mechanism with elevated cellular glutathione peroxidase (cGPX) activity. Both H-SeB and L-SeB inhibited C6 cell proliferation but H-SeB was less inhibitory than L-SeB. The proliferation inhibition by H-SeB in C6 cells is apparently related to the increased H(2)O(2) with the elevated cGPX activity, but the inhibition by L-SeB was H(2)O(2)-independent without change in cGPX activity.