Δ1-pyrroline-5-carboxylate (P5C), an intermediate in biosynthesis and degradation of proline (Pro), is assumed to play a role in cell death in plants and animals. Toxicity of external Pro and P5C supply to Arabidopsis suggested that P5C dehydrogenase (P5CDH; EC 188.8.131.52) plays a crucial role in this process by degrading the toxic Pro catabolism intermediate P5C. Also in a Δput2 yeast mutant, lacking P5CDH, Pro led to growth inhibition and formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Complementation of the Δput2 mutant allowed identification of the Arabidopsis P5CDH gene. AtP5CDH is a single-copy gene and the encoded protein was localized to the mitochondria. High homology of AtP5CDH to LuFIS1, an mRNA up-regulated during susceptible pathogen attack in flax, suggested a role for P5CDH in inhibition of hypersensitive reactions. An Arabidopsis mutant (cpr5) displaying a constitutive pathogen response was found to be hypersensitive to external Pro. In agreement with a role in prevention of cell death, AtP5CDH was expressed at a basal level in all tissues analysed. The highest expression was found in flowers that are known to contain the highest Pro levels under normal conditions. External supply of Pro induced AtP5CDH expression, but much more slowly than Pro dehydrogenase (AtProDH) expression. Uncoupled induction of the AtProDH and AtP5CDH genes further supports the hypothesis that P5C levels have to be tightly controlled. These results indicate that, in addition to the well-studied functions of Pro, for example in osmoregulation, the Pro metabolism intermediate P5C also serves as a regulator of cellular stress responses.