Human type 2 iodothyronine deiodinase (hD2) catalyzes the activation of T4 to T3. D2, like types 1 and 3 deiodinases, contains selenocysteine (Sec) in the highly conserved active center at position 133. To evaluate the contribution of Sec133 to the catalytic properties of hD2, we generated mutants in which cysteine (Cys) or alanine (Ala) replaced Sec133. The Km (T4) of Cys133D2 was 2.1 μM, strikingly higher than that of native D2 (1.4 nM). In contrast, the relative turnover number was 10-fold lower for Cys133D2, illustrating the greater potency of Se than S in supporting catalysis. The AlaD2 mutant was inactive. Studies in intact cells transiently expressing the native or Cys133D2 enzyme exhibited saturation kinetics expected from the Km as measured under in vitro conditions, indicating rapid equilibration of extracellular and intracellular T4. Blockade of the NTCP, OATP1-3, and LST-1 transporters with 10 mM sodium taurocholate did not alter the deiodination rate of T4 by Cys133D2 transiently expressed in intact cells, suggesting that intracellular transport of T4 is not rate limiting. These results illustrate that selenium plays a critical role in deiodination catalyzed by hD2.