Challenging tomato or tobacco varieties with ethylene-inducing xylanase (EIX) from the fungus Trichoderma viride causes rapid induction of plant defence responses leading to programmed cell death. Using the yeast two-hybrid system, we isolated a novel protein, tomato small ubiquitin-related modifier protein (T-SUMO), which specifically interacts with EIX. T-SUMO, a cytoplasmic protein, is a member of the ubiquitin-like protein family. It shows homology to human protein sentrin/SUMO1, which suppresses tumour necrosis factor-induced cell death. Transgenic plants that express T-SUMO in the sense orientation suppress EIX induction of ethylene biosynthesis and cell death, while in the antisense orientation they enhance EIX-induced ethylene biosynthesis. These results indicate that T-SUMO is involved in mediating the signal generated by EIX that leads to induction of plant defence responses.