The plant-specific NAC (NAM, ATAF1,2 and CUC2) proteins constitute a major transcription factor family renowned for their roles in several developmental programs. Despite their highly conserved DNA-binding domains, their remarkable diversification across plants reflects their numerous functions. Lately, they have received much attention as regulators in various stress signaling pathways which may include interplay of phytohormones. This review summarizes the recent progress in research on NACs highlighting the proteins' potential for engineering stress tolerance against various abiotic and biotic challenges. We discuss regulatory components and targets of NAC proteins in the context of their prospective role for crop improvement strategies via biotechnological intervention. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.