Seed storage proteins must be hydrolyzed by proteases to deliver the amino acids essential for embryo growth and development. Several groups of proteases involved in this process have been identified in both the monocot and the dicot species. This review focuses on the implication of proteases during germination in two cereal species, barley and wheat, where proteolytic control during the germination process has considerable economic importance. Formerly, the participation of proteases during grain germination was inferred from reports of proteolytic activities, the expression of individual genes, or the presence of individual proteins and showed a prominent role for papain-like and legumain-like cysteine proteases and for serine carboxypeptidases. Nowadays, the development of new technologies and the release of the genomic sequences of wheat and barley have permitted the application of genome-scale approaches, such as those used in functional genomics and proteomics. Using these approaches, the repertoire of proteases known to be involved in germination has increased and includes members of distinct protease families. The development of novel techniques based on shotgun proteomics, activity-based protein profiling, and comparative and structural genomics will help to achieve a general view of the proteolytic process during germination.
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