The gene family of subtilisin-like serine proteases (subtilases, SBTs) in tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) comprises at least 15 members, 12 of which have been characterized in this study. Sequence comparison revealed that tomato subtilases fall into 5 distinct subfamilies. Single genes were shown to exist for LeSBT1, LeSBT2 and tmp), while 5 and 6 genes were found in the LeSBT3/4 and P69 subfamilies, respectively. With the exception of tmp, tomato subtilase genes were found to lack introns. Expression of subtilase genes was confirmed at the mRNA level by northern blot analysis and/or by primer extension experiments. For each of the 5 subtilase subfamilies, a distinctive pattern of expression was observed in tomato organs. At least one of the subtilases was found to be expressed in each organ analysed. Structural features evident from deduced amino acid sequences are discussed with reference to the related mammalian proprotein convertases.