Abstract Senescence-associated proteolysis in plants is a complex and controlled process, essential for mobilization of nutrients from old or stressed tissues, mainly leaves, to growing or sink organs. Protein breakdown in senescing leaves involves many plastidial and nuclear proteases, regulators, different subcellular locations and dynamic protein traffic to ensure the complete transformation of proteins of high molecular weight into transportable and useful hydrolysed products. Protease activities are strictly regulated by specific inhibitors and through the activation of zymogens to develop their proteolytic activity at the right place and at the proper time. All these events associated with senescence have deep effects on the relocation of nutrients and as a consequence, on grain quality and crop yield. Thus, it can be considered that nutrient recycling is the common destiny of two processes, plant senescence and, proteolysis. This review article covers the most recent findings about leaf senescence features mediated by abiotic and biotic stresses as well as the participants and steps required in this physiological process, paying special attention to C1A cysteine proteases, their specific inhibitors, known as cystatins, and their potential targets, particularly the chloroplastic proteins as source for nitrogen recycling.