The human placenta provides life support for the developing foetus, and a healthy placenta is a prerequisite to a healthy start to life. Placental tissue is subject to oxidative stress which can lead to pathological conditions of pregnancy such as preeclampsia, preterm labour and intrauterine growth restriction. Up-regulation of endogenous anti-oxidants may alleviate placental oxidative stress and provide a therapy for these complications of pregnancy. In this study, selenium supplementation, as inorganic sodium selenite (NaSel) or organic selenomethionine (SeMet), was used to increase the protein production and cellular activity of the important redox active proteins glutathione peroxidase (GPx) and thioredoxin reductase (Thx-Red). Placental trophoblast cell lines, BeWo, JEG-3 and Swan-71, were cultured in various concentrations of NaSel or SeMet for 24 h and cell extracts prepared for western blots and enzyme assays. Rotenone and antimycin were used to stimulate mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and induce apoptosis. Trophoblast cells supplemented with 100 nM NaSel and 500 nM SeMet exhibited significantly enhanced expression and activity of both GPx and Thx-Red. Antimycin and rotenone were found to generate ROS when measured by 2',7'-dichlorofluorescein diacetate (DCFDA) assay, and selenium supplementation was shown to reduce ROS production in a dose-dependent manner. Rotenone, 100 μM treatment for 4 h, caused trophoblast cell apoptosis as evidenced by increased Annexin V binding and decreased expression of Bcl-2. In both assays of apoptosis, selenium supplementation was able to prevent apoptosis, preserve Bcl-2 expression and protect trophoblast cells from mitochondrial oxidative stress. This data suggests that selenoproteins such as GPx and Thx-Red have an important role in protecting trophoblast cells from mitochondrial oxidative stress and that selenium supplementation may be important in treating some placental pathologies.