Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Caspases are key regulators of apoptosis in animals. This correlation has driven plant researchers for decades to look for caspases regulating programmed cell death (PCD) in plants. These studies revealed caspase-like activities, caspase-related proteases, and cysteine (Cys) proteases regulating PCD in plants, but identified no caspases and no conserved, apoptosis-like death pathway. Here, we critically review the evidence for Cys proteases implicated in PCD in plants. We discuss the role of papain-like Cys proteases, vacuolar processing enzymes, and metacaspases in PCD during the development of tracheary elements, seed coat, suspensor, and tapetum, and during the hypersensitive response. There are several convincing cases where these Cys proteases are required for PCD, but this requirement is often not conserved across different plant species. There are also cases where Cys proteases contribute to the speed, but not the timing of PCD, while other Cys proteases are nonessential for PCD, but have other roles, e.g., in the clearance of cell remains after PCD. These data illustrate the need for caution when generalizing the role of Cys proteases in regulating PCD in plants, and call for studies that further investigate plant Cys proteases and other PCD regulators.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1577 - 1585


caspase-like, hypersensitive response, metacaspase, papain-like cysteine protease, programmed cell death, seed coat, suspensor, tapetum, tracheary elements, vacuolar processing enzyme, Animals, Apoptosis, Caspases, Cell Death, Cysteine Endopeptidases, Humans, Plant Cells, Plant Proteins