Previous studies suggest that salicylic acid (SA) plays an important role in influencing plant resistance to ozone (O3). To further define the role of SA in O3-induced responses, we compared the responses of two Arabidopsis genotypes that accumulate different amounts of SA in response to O3 and a SA-deficient transgenic Col-0 line expressing salicylate hydroxylase (NahG). The differences observed in O3-induced changes in SA levels, the accumulation of active oxygen species, defense gene expression, and the kinetics and severity of lesion formation indicate that SA influences O3 tolerance via two distinct mechanisms. Detailed analyses indicated that features associated with a hypersensitive response (HR) were significantly greater in O3-exposed Cvi-0 than in Col-0, and that NahG plants failed to exhibit these HR-like responses. Furthermore, O3-induced antioxidant defenses, including the redox state of glutathione, were greatly reduced in NahG plants compared to Col-0 and Cvi-0. This suggests that O3-induced cell death in NahG plants is due to the loss of SA-mediated potentiation of antioxidant defenses, while O3-induced cell death in Cvi-0 is due to activation of a HR. This hypothesis is supported by the observation that inhibition of NADPH-oxidases reduced O3-induced H2O2 levels and the O3-induced cell death in Cvi-0, while no major changes were observed in NahG plants. We conclude that although SA is required to maintain the cellular redox state and potentiate defense responses in O3 exposed plants, high levels of SA also potentiate activation of an oxidative burst and a cell death pathway that results in apparent O3 sensitivity.