Specific recognition of Pseudomonas syringae strains that express the avirulence gene avrPphB requires two genes in Arabidopsis, RPS5 and PBS1. Previous work has shown that RPS5 encodes a member of the nucleotide binding site-leucine rich repeat class of plant disease resistance genes. Here we report that PBS1 encodes a putative serine-threonine kinase. Southern blot analysis revealed that the pbs1-1 allele contained a deletion of the 3' end of the PBS1 open reading frame. DNA sequence analysis of the pbs1-2 allele showed it to be a missense mutation that caused a glycine to arginine substitution in the activation segment of PBS1, a region known to regulate substrate binding and catalytic activity in many protein kinases. The identity of PBS1 was confirmed using both transient transformation and stable transformation of mutant pbs1 plants. Comparison of the predicted PBS1 amino acid sequence with other plant protein kinases revealed that PBS1 belongs to a distinct subfamily of protein kinases that contains no other members of known function. The Pto kinase of tomato, which is required for specific resistance to P. syringae strains expressing avrPto, did not fall in the same subfamily as PBS1 and is only 42% identical in the kinase domain. These data suggest that PBS1 and Pto may fulfil different functions in the recognition of pathogen avirulence proteins. We discuss several possible models for the roles of PBS1 and RPS5 in AvrPphB recognition.