Plant proteases: from phenotypes to molecular mechanisms.
van der Hoorn RAL.
Plant genomes encode hundreds of proteases, which represent dozens of unrelated families. The biological role of these proteases is mostly unknown, but mutant alleles, gene silencing, and overexpression studies have provided phenotypes for a growing number of proteases. The aim of this review is to show the diversity of the processes that are regulated by proteases, and to summarize the current knowledge of the underlying molecular mechanisms. The emerging picture is that plant proteases are key regulators of a striking variety of biological processes, including meiosis, gametophyte survival, embryogenesis, seed coat formation, cuticle deposition, epidermal cell fate, stomata development, chloroplast biogenesis, and local and systemic defense responses. The functional diversity correlates with the molecular data: Proteases are specifically expressed in time and space and accumulate in different subcellular compartments. Their substrates and activation mechanisms are elusive, however, and represent a challenging topic for further research.