Uncovering the Antioxidant Properties of Proline in Yeast

by Michael Dirkx and Rachael Reicks
Faculty advisor: Dr. Brian Lenzmeier

Natural metabolism and environmental stress are known to generate free radicals, specifically reactive oxygen species (ROS). These have been shown to cause cell apoptosis, DNA damage, rigid cell membranes, and most recently, aging. Fortunately, our body contains enzymes to handle these potentially damaging species. Catalase, Peroxidase, and Superoxide Dismutase are the three enzymes which convert reactive oxygen species and peroxide, a radical inducer, into water and oxygen gas. We have shown incubation of yeast cells in the presence of a high concentration of proline has been shown to increase the ability of yeast cells to survive exposure to reactive species.  The exact mechanism by which proline is causing these effects is unknown.  We have been using baker’s yeast to uncover the mechanisms for the anti-oxidant properties of proline.  We have examined several genetic mutations that might mediate the proline effect and are also examining the expression levels of key proteins that may be involved in the proline response.