NopT1 and NopT2, putative type III effectors from the plant symbiotic bacterium Bradyrhizobium japonicum, are predicted to belong to a family of YopT/AvrPphB effectors, which are cysteine proteases. In the present study, we showed that both NopT1 and NopT2 indeed possess cysteine protease activity. When overexpressed in Escherichia coli, both NopT1 and NopT2 undergo autoproteolytic processing which is largely abolished in the presence of E-64, a papain family-specific inhibitor. Mutations of NopT1 disrupting either the catalytic triad or the putative autoproteolytic site reduce or markedly abolish the protease activity. Autocleavage likely occurs between residues K48 and M49, though another potential cleavage site is also possible. NopT1 also elicitis HR-like cell death when transiently expressed in tobacco plants and its cysteine protease activity is essential for this ability. In contrast, no macroscopic symptoms were observed for NopT2. Furthermore, mutational analysis provided evidence that NopT1 may undergo acylation inside plant cells and that this would be required for its capacity to elicit HR-like cell death in tobacco.