Intra-plastid proteases play crucial and diverse roles in the development and maintenance of non-photosynthetic plastids and chloroplasts. Formation and maintenance of a functional thylakoid electron transport chain requires various protease activities, operating in parallel, as well as in series. This review first provides a short, referenced overview of all experimentally identified plastid proteases in Arabidopsis thaliana. We then focus on the Clp protease system which constitutes the most abundant and complex soluble protease system in the plastid, consisting of 15 nuclear-encoded members and one plastid-encoded member in Arabidopsis. Comparisons to the simpler Clp system in photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic bacteria will be made and the role of Clp proteases in the green algae Chlamydomonas reinhardtii will be briefly reviewed. Extensive molecular genetics has shown that the Clp system plays an essential role in Arabidopsis chloroplast development in the embryo as well as in leaves. Molecular characterization of the various Clp mutants has elucidated many of the consequences of loss of Clp activities. We summarize and discuss the structural and functional aspects of the Clp machinery, including progress on substrate identification and recognition. Finally, the Clp system will be evaluated in the context of the chloroplast protease network. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Regulation of Electron Transport in Chloroplasts.
Copyright © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.