In the presence of ATP and Mg2+, ATP sulphurylase from Saccharomyces cerevisiae catalysed the conversion of selenate into a compound with the electrophoretic and acid-lability properties of adenosine 5'-sulphatophosphate. Structural characterization, involving extensive purification of adenosine 5'-selenophosphate, proved impossible. However, we showed ATP-, Mg2+- and ATP sulphurylase-dependent, and inorganic pyrophosphatase-stimulated, production of elemental selenium from selenate in the presence of GSH (reduced glutathione). Since selenate was not reduced by GSH, this reaction proved that ATP sulphurylase had formed an active selenate. The enzyme catalysed formation of elemental selenium had the same kinetics and GSH-dependency as the non-enzymic reduction of selenite to elemental selenium by GSH. In the presence of inorganic pyrophosphatase, 2 mol of Pi was released for each mol of 'active selenate' formed. This was shown by a spectrophotometric assay for elemental selenium. The observed reactivity with thiols and the instability of the enzymic product were those predicted for selenium anhydrides. By analogy with the chemistry of sulphur, the product of the thiolytic cleavage of a selenium anhydride would be converted into selenite. The selenite would then be reduced by the thiol to elemental selenium. We conclude that ATP sulphurylase can catalyse the formation of adenosine 5'-selenophosphate. The anhydride can be reduced by thiols in a manner similar to the reduction of selenite. These results probably explain the ability of mammals, lacking a sulphate reductase system, to incorporate selenium from selenate into seleno-amino acids.