, Volume 81, Issue 2, pp 211-223
Date: 19 Sep 2008

Proline as a stress protectant in yeast: physiological functions, metabolic regulations, and biotechnological applications

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Abstract

Proline is an important amino acid in terms of its biological functions and biotechnological applications. In response to osmotic stress, proline is accumulated in many bacterial and plant cells as an osmoprotectant. However, it has been shown that proline levels are not increased under various stress conditions in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells. Proline is believed to serve multiple functions in vitro such as protein and membrane stabilization, lowering the T m of DNA, and scavenging of reactive oxygen species, but the mechanisms of these functions in vivo are poorly understood. Yeast cells biosynthesize proline from glutamate in the cytoplasm via the same pathway found in bacteria and plants and also convert excess proline to glutamate in the mitochondria. Based on the fact that proline has stress-protective activity, S. cerevisiae cells that accumulate proline were constructed by disrupting the PUT1 gene involved in the degradation pathway and by expressing the mutant PRO1 gene encoding the feedback inhibition-less sensitive γ-glutamate kinase to enhance the biosynthetic activity. The engineered yeast strains successfully showed enhanced tolerance to many stresses, including freezing, desiccation, oxidation, and ethanol. However, the appropriate cellular level and localization of proline play pivotal roles in the stress-protective effect. These results indicate that the increased stress protection is observed in yeast cells under the artificial condition of proline accumulation. Proline is expected to contribute to yeast-based industries by improving the production of frozen dough and alcoholic beverages or breakthroughs in bioethanol production.