Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln say proline dehydrogenase is important because it plays a role in apoptosis -- the process of cell death -- by enabling the creation of superoxide, the University of Missouri said in a release.
Superoxide is involved in the destruction of damaged cells and important in preventing the development and spread of cancer.
The protein proline dehydrogenase "opens up to allow oxygen to 'steal' electrons" and create a superoxide, MU doctoral student Tommi A. White said in the release.
The team studied proline dehydrogenase from the bacteria Thermus thermophilus, using bioinformatics and biochemical studies to show that this enzyme is functionally similar to the human version.