In "gene-for-gene" interactions between plants and their pathogens, incompatibility (no disease) requires a dominant or semidominant resistance (R) gene in the plant, and a corresponding avirulence (Avr) gene in the pathogen. Many plant/pathogen interactions are of this type. R genes are presumed to (a) enable plants to detect Avr-gene-specified pathogen molecules, (b) initiate signal transduction to activate defenses, and (c) have the capacity to evolve new R gene specificities rapidly. Isolation of R genes has revealed four main classes of R gene sequences whose products appear to activate a similar range of defense mechanisms. Discovery of the structure of R genes and R gene loci provides insight into R gene function and evolution, and should lead to novel strategies for disease control.