We have previously shown that bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum) has immunomodulatory effects on mouse natural killer (NK) cells by reducing cytotoxicity. Alternatively, it has been demonstrated that selenium can enhance NK cell activity. Therefore, the aims of the present study were to evaluate if ptaquiloside, the main toxic component found in P. aquilinum, is responsible for the immunotoxic effects observed in mice, and if selenium supplementation could prevent or even reverse these effects. Male C57BL/6 mice were administered the P. aquilinum extract by daily gavage for 30 days, and histological analyses revealed a significant reduction in splenic white pulp area that was fully reversed by selenium treatment. In addition, mice administered ptaquiloside by daily gavage for 14 days demonstrated the same reduction of NK cell activity as the P. aquilinum extract, and this reduction was prevented by selenium co-administration. Lastly, non-adherent splenic cells treated in vitro with an RPM! extract of P. aquilinum also showed diminished NM cell activity that was not only prevented by selenium co-treatment but also fully reversed by selenium post-treatment. The results of this study clearly show that the immunosuppressive effects of P. aquilinum are induced by ptaquiloside and that selenium supplementation can prevent as well as reverse these effects. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.