Structural formula of proline Ball and stick model of (S)-proline
CAS number  YesY,  (R) YesY,  (S) YesY
PubChem ,  (R),  (S)
ChemSpider  YesY,  (R) YesY,  (S) YesY
EC number
RTECS number TW3584000
Beilstein Reference 80812
Gmelin Reference 26927
Jmol-3D images Image 1
Image 2
Molecular formula C5H9NO2
Molar mass 115.13 g mol−1
Appearance Transparent crystals
Melting point 205 to 228 °C (401 to 442 °F; 478 to 501 K) (decomposes)
Solubility 1.5g/100g ethanol 19 degC[2]
log P -0.06
Acidity (pKa) 1.99 (carboxyl), 10.96 (amino)[3]
MSDS External MSDS
S-phrases S22, S24/25
Supplementary data page
Structure and
n, εr, etc.
Phase behaviour
Solid, liquid, gas
Spectral data UV, IR, NMR, MS
Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C (77 °F), 100 kPa)
 N   YesY/N?)

Proline (abbreviated as Pro or P) is an α-amino acid, one of the twenty DNA-encoded amino acids. Its codons are CCU, CCC, CCA, and CCG. It is not an essential amino acid, which means that the human body can synthesize it. It is unique among the 20 protein-forming amino acids in that the amine nitrogen is bound to not one but two alkyl groups, thus making it a secondary amine. The more common L form has S stereochemistry.


Proline is biosynthetically derived from the amino acid L-glutamate. Glutamate-5-semialdehyde is first formed by glutamate 5-kinase (ATP-dependent) and glutamate-5-semialdehyde dehydrogenase (which requires NADH or NADPH). This can then either spontaneously cyclize to form 1-pyrroline-5-carboxylic acid, which is reduced to proline by pyrroline-5-carboxylate reductase (using NADH or NADPH), or turned into ornithine by ornithine aminotransferase, followed by cyclisation by ornithine cyclodeaminase to form proline.[4]

Zwitterionic structure of both proline enantiomers: (S)-proline (left) and (R)-proline

Properties in protein structure

The distinctive cyclic structure of proline's side chain gives proline an exceptional conformational rigidity compared to other amino acids. It also affects the rate of peptide bond formation between proline and other amino acids. When proline is bound as an amide in a peptide bond, its nitrogen is not bound to any hydrogen, meaning it cannot act as a hydrogen bond donor, but can be a hydrogen bond acceptor.

Peptide bond formation with incoming Pro-tRNAPro is considerably slower than with any other tRNAs, which is a general feature of N-alkylamino acids.[5] Peptide bond formation is also slow between an incoming tRNA and a chain ending in proline; with the creation of proline-proline bonds slowest of all.[6]

The exceptional conformational rigidity of proline affects the Protein secondary structure can be described in terms of the dihedral angles φ, ψ and ω of the protein backbone. The cyclic structure of proline's side chain locks the angle φ at approximately −60°.

Proline acts as a structural disruptor in the middle of regular secondary structure elements such as alpha helices and beta sheets; however, proline is commonly found as the first residue of an alpha helix and also in the edge strands of beta sheets. Proline is also commonly found in turns (another kind of secondary structure), and aids in the formation of beta turns. This may account for the curious fact that proline is usually solvent-exposed, despite having a completely aliphatic side chain.

Multiple prolines and/or scurvy can result from defects in this hydroxylation, e.g., mutations in the enzyme prolyl hydroxylase or lack of the necessary ascorbate (vitamin C) cofactor.

Sequences of proline and 2-aminoisobutyric acid (Aib) also form a helical turn structure.

Cis-trans isomerization

Peptide bonds to proline, and to other N-substituted amino acids (such as sarcosine), are able to populate both the cis and trans isomers. Most peptide bonds overwhelmingly adopt the trans isomer (typically 99.9% under unstrained conditions), chiefly because the amide hydrogen (trans isomer) offers less steric repulsion to the preceding Cα atom than does the following Cα atom (cis isomer). By contrast, the cis and trans isomers of the X-Pro peptide bond (where X represents any amino acid) both experience steric clashes with the neighboring substitution and are nearly equal energetically. Hence, the fraction of X-Pro peptide bonds in the cis isomer under unstrained conditions ranges from 10-40%; the fraction depends slightly on the preceding amino acid, with aromatic residues favoring the cis isomer slightly.

From a kinetic standpoint, cis-trans proline prolyl isomerase enzymes to catalyze this isomerization, and some bacteria have specialized prolyl isomerases associated with the ribosome. However, not all prolines are essential for folding, and protein folding may proceed at a normal rate despite having non-native conformers of many X-Pro peptide bonds.


Proline and its derivatives are often used as asymmetric catalysts in organic reactions. The CBS reduction and proline catalysed aldol condensation are prominent examples.

L-Proline is an osmoprotectant and therefore is used in many pharmaceutical, biotechnological applications.

In brewing, proteins rich in proline combine with polyphenols to produce haze (turbidity).[8]


Proline is one of the two amino acids that do not follow along with the typical Ramachandran plot, along with glycine. Due to the ring formation connected to the beta carbon, the ψ and φ angles about the peptide bond have fewer allowable degrees of rotation. As a result it is often found in "turns" of proteins as its free entropy (ΔS) is not as comparatively large to other amino acids and thus in a folded form vs. unfolded form, the change in entropy is less. Furthermore, proline is rarely found in α and β structures as it would reduce the stability of such structures, because its side chain α-N can only form one hydrogen bond.

Additionally, proline is the only amino acid that does not form a blue/purple colour when developed by spraying with ninhydrin for uses in chromatography. Proline, instead, produces an orange/yellow colour.


Richard Willstätter synthesized proline by the reaction of sodium salt of diethyl malonate with 1,3-dibromopropane in 1900. In 1901, Hermann Emil Fischer isolated proline from casein and the decomposition products of γ-phthalimido-propylmalonic ester.[9]

See also


Racemic proline can be synthesized from diethyl malonate and acrylonitrile:[10]


  1. ^
  2. ^ H.-D. Belitz; W. Grosch; P. Schieberle. Food Chemistry. p. 15.  
  3. ^ Nelson, D.L., Cox, M.M., Principles of Biochemistry. NY: W.H. Freeman and Company.
  4. ^ Lehninger, Albert L.; Nelson, David L.; Cox, Michael M. (2000), Principles of Biochemistry (3rd ed.), New York: W. H. Freeman,  .
  5. ^ Pavlov, Michael Y; Watts, Richard E; Tan, Zhongping; Cornish, Virginia W; Ehrenberg, Måns; Forster, Anthony C (2010), "Slow peptide bond formation by proline and other N-alkylamino acids in translation", PNAS 106 (1): 50–54,  .
  6. ^ Buskirk, Allen R.; Green, Rachel (2013). "Getting Past Polyproline Pauses".  
  7. ^ Szpak, Paul (2011). "Fish bone chemistry and ultrastructure: implications for taphonomy and stable isotope analysis".  
  8. ^ K.J. Siebert, "Haze and Foam",[1] Accessed July 12, 2010.
  9. ^ R.H.A. Plimmer (1912) [1908], R.H.A. Plimmer & F.G. Hopkins, ed., The chemical composition of the proteins, Monographs on biochemistry, Part I. Analysis (2nd ed.), London: Longmans, Green and Co., p. 130, retrieved September 20, 2010 
  10. ^ Vogel, Practical Organic Chemistry 5th edition

Further reading

External links

  • Proline MS Spectrum
  • Proline biosynthesis
  • Proline biosynthesis

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