The first barrier to infection encountered by foliar pathogens is the host cuticle. To traverse this obstacle, many fungi produce specialized infection cells called appressoria. MST12 is essential for appressorium-mediated penetration and infectious growth by the rice pathogen Magnaporthe grisea. In this study, we have characterized in detail the penetration defects of an mst12 deletion mutant. Appressoria formed by the mst12 mutant developed normal turgor pressure and ultrastructure but failed to form penetration pegs either on cellophane membranes or on plant epidermal cells. Deletion and site-directed mutagenesis analyses indicated that both the homeodomain and zinc finger domains, but not the middle region, of MST12 are essential for appressorial penetration and plant infection. The mst12 mutant appeared to be defective in microtubule reorganization associated with penetration peg formation. In mature appressoria, the mutant lacked vertical microtubules observed in the wild type. The mst12 mutant also failed to elicit localized host defence responses, including papilla formation and autofluorescence. Our data indicate that generation of appressorium turgor pressure and formation of the penetration peg are two independent processes. MST12 may play important roles in regulating penetration peg formation and directing the physical forces exerted by the appressorium turgor in mature appressoria.