One of the earliest detectable events during plant-pathogen interaction is a rapid increase in ethylene biosynthesis. This gaseous plant stress hormone may be a signal for plants to activate defense mechanisms against invading pathogens such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The effect of ethylene on four plant genes involved in three separate plant defense response pathways was examined; these included (i and ii) genes that encode L-phenylalanine ammonia-lyase (EC 126.96.36.199) and 4-coumarate:CoA ligase [4-coumarate:CoA ligase (AMP-forming), EC 188.8.131.52], enzymes of the phenylpropanoid pathway, (iii) the gene encoding chalcone synthase, an enzyme of the flavonoid glycoside pathway, and (iv) the genes encoding hydroxyproline-rich glycoprotein, a major protein component(s) of plant cell walls. Blot hybridization analysis of mRNA from ethylene-treated carrot roots reveals marked increases in the levels of phenylalanine ammonia-lyase mRNA, 4-coumarate CoA ligase mRNA, chalcone synthase mRNA, and certain hydroxyproline-rich glycoprotein transcripts. The effect of ethylene on hydroxyproline-rich glycoprotein mRNA accumulation was different from that of wounding. Ethylene induces two hydroxyproline-rich glycoprotein mRNAs (1.8 and 4.0 kilobases), whereas wounding of carrot root leads to accumulation of an additional hydroxyproline-rich mRNA (1.5 kilobases). These results indicate that at least two distinct signals, ethylene and a wound signal, can affect the expression of plant defense-response genes.