The cysteine proteases of Porphyromonas gingivalis are extracellular products of an important etiological agent in periodontal diseases. Many of the in vitro actions of these enzymes are consistent with the observed deregulated inflammatory and immune features of the disease. They are significant targets of the immune responses of affected individuals and are viewed by some as potential molecular targets for therapeutic approaches to these diseases. Furthermore, they appear to represent a complex group of genes and protein products whose transcriptional and translational control and maturation pathways may have a broader relevance to virulence determinants of other persistent bacterial pathogens of human mucosal surfaces. As a result, the genetics, chemistry, and virulence-related properties of the cysteine proteases of P. gingivalis have been the focus of much research effort over the last ten years. In this review, we describe some of the progress in their molecular characterization and how their putative biological roles, in relation to the in vivo growth and survival strategies of P. gingivalis, may also contribute to the periodontal disease process.