Date of this Version
Antioxid. Redox Signal. 19, 998–1011.
Significance: The imino acid proline is utilized by different organisms to offset cellular imbalances caused by environmental stress. The wide use in nature of proline as a stress adaptor molecule indicates that proline has a fundamental biological role in stress response. Understanding the mechanisms by which proline enhances abiotic/biotic stress response will facilitate agricultural crop research and improve human health. Recent Advances: It is now recognized that proline metabolism propels cellular signaling processes that promote cellular apoptosis or survival. Studies have shown that proline metabolism influences signaling pathways by increasing reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation in the mitochondria via the electron transport chain. Enhanced ROS production due to proline metabolism has been implicated in the hypersensitive response in plants, lifespan extension in worms, and apoptosis, tumor suppression, and cell survival in animals. Critical Issues: The ability of proline to influence disparate cellular outcomes may be governed by ROS levels generated in the mitochondria. Defining the threshold at which proline metabolic enzyme expression switches from inducing survival pathways to cellular apoptosis would provide molecular insights into cellular redox regulation by proline. Are ROS the only mediators of proline metabolic signaling or are other factors involved? Future Directions: New evidence suggests that proline biosynthesis enzymes interact with redox proteins such as thioredoxin. An important future pursuit will be to identify other interacting partners of proline metabolic enzymes to uncover novel regulatory and signaling networks of cellular stress response.