Plastids bear their own genome, organized into DNA-protein complexes (nucleoids). Recently, we identified a DNA-binding protease (CND41) in the chloroplast nucleoids of cultured tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.) cells. In this study, we examine the biochemical function of this novel DNA-binding protease, particularly in senescent leaves, because antisense tobacco with a reduced amount of CND41 showed retarded senescence. Nitrogen-depletion experiments clearly showed that CND41 antisense tobacco maintained green leaves and constant protein levels, especially ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco), throughout the whole plant, whereas wild-type tobacco showed marked senescence and the reduction of protein levels in the lower leaves. In vitro analyses confirmed that CND41 showed proteolytic activity at physiological pH when denatured Rubisco was used as the substrate. These results suggest that CND41 is involved in Rubisco degradation and the translocation of nitrogen during senescence. The possible regulation of protease activity of CND41 through DNA-binding is discussed.