The hydration properties of proline are studied by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) in aqueous solutions during freezing to -60 degrees C and subsequent heating to +20 degrees C. The concentration of proline in the freeze concentrated solution was estimated to approximately 50 wt% (w/w) indicating a high water solubility of proline at subzero temperatures. No glass transition was observed within the concentration range 0.9-40.1 wt% (w/w), neither at a low scanning rate of 2.5 degrees C/min nor at a higher scanning rate of 10 degrees C/min. Eutectic crystallization of proline was not observed during freezing or melting which shows that proline has the ability to stay in solution at subzero temperatures. Samples containing proline-NaCl-water were also investigated by DSC and it was shown that the solubility of proline is maintained in aqueous salt solutions at temperatures as low as -60 degrees C. From DSC measurements it was found that the eutectic crystallization of NaCl is prevented by the presence of proline, even when NaCl (initially) is present in molar excess ([NaCl]/[proline] = 2.6). The possible association of these findings with the occurrence of proline accumulation in some plants and insects living under water stress conditions is discussed. (C) 1997 Elsevier Science B.V.