Proline metabolism increases katG expression and oxidative stress resistance in Escherichia coli

Lu Zhang, James R. Alfano, Donald F. Becker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


The oxidation of L-proline to glutamate in Gram-negative bacteria is catalyzed by the proline utilization A (PutA) flavoenzyme, which contains proline dehydrogenase (PRODH) and Δ1-pyrroline-5-carboxylate (P5C) dehydrogenase domains in a single polypeptide. Previous studies have suggested that aside from providing energy, proline metabolism influences oxidative stress resistance in different organisms. To explore this potential role and the mechanism, we characterized the oxidative stress resistance of wild-type and putA mutant strains of Escherichia coli. Initial stress assays revealed that the putA mutant strain was significantly more sensitive to oxidative stress than the parental wild-type strain. Expression of PutA in the putA mutant strain restored oxidative stress resistance, confirming that depletion of PutA was responsible for the oxidative stress phenotype. Treatment of wild-type cells with proline significantly increased hydroperoxidase I (encoded by katG) expression and activity. Furthermore, the ΔkatG strain failed to respond to proline, indicating a critical role for hydroperoxidase I in the mechanism of proline protection. The global regulator OxyR activates the expression of katG along with several other genes involved in oxidative stress defense. In addition to katG, proline increased the expression of grxA (glutaredoxin 1) and trxC (thioredoxin 2) of the OxyR regulon, implicating OxyR in proline protection. Proline oxidative metabolism was shown to generate hydrogen peroxide, indicating that proline increases oxidative stress tolerance in E. coli via a preadaptive effect involving endogenous hydrogen peroxide production and enhanced catalase-peroxidase activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)431-440
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of bacteriology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology


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