Many organisms, including higher plants, accumulate free proline (Pro) in response to osmotic stress. Although various studies have focused on the ability of Pro as a compatible osmolyte involved in osmotolerance, its specific role throughout plant growth is still unclear. It has been reported that Pro is synthesized from Glu catalyzed by a key enzyme, delta 1-pyrroline-5-carboxylate synthetase (P5CS), in plants. To elucidate essential roles of Pro, we generated antisense transgenic Arabidopsis plants with a P5CS cDNA. Several transgenics accumulated Pro at a significantly lower level than wild-type plants, providing direct evidence for a key role of P5CS in Pro production in Arabidopsis. These antisense transgenics showed morphological alterations in leaves and a defect in elongation of inflorescences. Furthermore, transgenic leaves were hypersensitive to osmotic stress. Microscopic analysis of transgenic leaves, in which the mutated phenotype clearly occurred, showed morphological abnormalities of epidermal and parenchymatous cells and retardation of differentiation of vascular systems. These phenotypes were suppressed by exogenous L-Pro but not by D-Pro or other Pro analogues. In addition, Pro deficiency did not broadly affect all proteins but specifically affected structural proteins of cell walls in the antisense transgenic plants. These results indicate that Pro is not just an osmoregulator in stressed plants but has a unique function involved in osmotolerance as well as in morphogenesis as a major constituent of cell wall structural proteins in plants.