Protease signaling in animal and plant-regulated cell death

FEBS J. 2016 Jul;283(14):2577-98. doi: 10.1111/febs.13616. Epub 2015 Dec 31.


This review aims to highlight the proteases required for regulated cell death mechanisms in animals and plants. The aim is to be incisive, and not inclusive of all the animal proteases that have been implicated in various publications. The review also aims to focus on instances when several publications from disparate groups have demonstrated the involvement of an animal protease, and also when there is substantial biochemical, mechanistic and genetic evidence. In doing so, the literature can be culled to a handful of proteases, covering most of the known regulated cell death mechanisms: apoptosis, regulated necrosis, necroptosis, pyroptosis and NETosis in animals. In plants, the literature is younger and not as extensive as for mammals, although the molecular drivers of vacuolar death, necrosis and the hypersensitive response in plants are becoming clearer. Each of these death mechanisms has at least one proteolytic component that plays a major role in controlling the pathway, and sometimes they combine in networks to regulate cell death/survival decision nodes. Some similarities are found among animal and plant cell death proteases but, overall, the pathways that they govern are kingdom-specific with very little overlap.

Keywords: NETosis; apoptosis; caspase; cathepsin; metacaspase; necroptosis; necrosis; peptidase; proteolysis; pyroptosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Caspases / physiology
  • Catalysis
  • Cell Death / physiology*
  • Granzymes / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Necrosis
  • Peptide Hydrolases / classification
  • Peptide Hydrolases / physiology*
  • Plant Cells / enzymology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Peptide Hydrolases
  • Granzymes
  • Caspases