Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae (Xoo) Philippine race 6 (PR6) is unable to cause bacterial blight disease on rice lines containing the rice resistance gene Xa21 but is virulent on non-Xa21 rice lines, indicating that PR6 carries avirulence (avrXa21) determinants required for recognition by XA21. Here we show that two Xoo genes, raxP and raxQ, are required for AvrXa21 activity. raxP and raxQ, which reside in a genomic cluster of sulphur assimilation genes, encode an ATP sulphurylase and APS (adenosine-5'-phosphosulphate) kinase. These enzymes function together to produce activated forms of sulphate, APS and PAPS (3'-phosphoadenosine-5'-phosphosulphate). Xoo PR6 strains carrying disruptions in either gene, PR6DeltaraxP or PR6DeltaraxQ, are unable to produce APS and PAPS and are virulent on Xa21-containing rice lines. RaxP and RaxQ are similar to the bacterial symbiont Sinorhizobium meliloti host specificity proteins, NodP and NodQ and the Escherichia coli cysteine synthesis proteins CysD, CysN and CysC. The APS and PAPS produced by RaxP and RaxQ are used for both cysteine synthesis and sulphation of other molecules. Mutation in Xoo xcysI, a homologue of Escherichia coli cysI that is required for cysteine synthesis, blocked APS- or PAPS-dependent cysteine synthesis but did not affect AvrXa21 activity, suggesting that AvrXa21 activity is related to sulphation rather than cysteine synthesis. Taken together, these results demonstrate that APS and PAPS production plays a critical role in determining avirulence of a phytopathogen and reveal a commonality between symbiotic and phytopathogenic bacteria.