Phosphatidic acid (PA) has only recently been identified as an important signaling molecule in both plants and animals. Nonetheless, it already promises to rival the importance of the classic second messengers Ca(2+) and cAMP. In plants, its formation is triggered in response to various biotic and abiotic stress factors, including pathogen infection, drought, salinity, wounding and cold. In general, PA signal production is fast (minutes) and transient. Recently, our understanding of the role of PA formation in stress responses as a result of phospholipases C and D activity has greatly increased. Moreover, the first protein targets of PA have been identified. Based on this recent work, potential mechanisms by which PA provokes downstream effects are emerging.