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Review article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Chlamydomonas proteases: classification, phylogeny, and molecular mechanisms

Zou, Yong; Bozhkov, Peter


Proteases can regulate myriad biochemical pathways by digesting or processing target proteins. While up to 3% of eukaryotic genes encode proteases, only a tiny fraction of proteases are mechanistically understood. Furthermore, most of the current knowledge about proteases is derived from studies of a few model organisms, including Arabidopsis thaliana in the case of plants. Proteases in other plant model systems are largely unexplored territory, limiting our mechanistic comprehension of post-translational regulation in plants and hampering integrated understanding of how proteolysis evolved. We argue that the unicellular green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii has a number of technical and biological advantages for systematic studies of proteases, including reduced complexity of many protease families and ease of cell phenotyping. With this end in view, we share a genome-wide inventory of proteolytic enzymes in Chlamydomonas, compare the protease degradomes of Chlamydomonas and Arabidopsis, and consider the phylogenetic relatedness of Chlamydomonas proteases to major taxonomic groups. Finally, we summarize the current knowledge of the biochemical regulation and physiological roles of proteases in this algal model. We anticipate that our survey will promote and streamline future research on Chlamydomonas proteases, generating new insights into proteolytic mechanisms and the evolution of digestive and limited proteolysis.


Arabidopsis; autophagy; Chlamydomonas; evolution; green algae; horizontal gene transfer; phylogeny; proteases; protein quality control; proteolytic substrates

Published in

Journal of Experimental Botany
2021, Volume: 72, number: 22, pages: 7680-7693