Inducible defense-related proteins have been described in many plant species upon infection with oomycetes, fungi, bacteria, or viruses, or insect attack. Several types of proteins are common and have been classified into 17 families of pathogenesis-related proteins (PRs). Others have so far been found to occur more specifically in some plant species. Most PRs and related proteins are induced through the action of the signaling compounds salicylic acid, jasmonic acid, or ethylene, and possess antimicrobial activities in vitro through hydrolytic activities on cell walls, contact toxicity, and perhaps an involvement in defense signaling. However, when expressed in transgenic plants, they reduce only a limited number of diseases, depending on the nature of the protein, plant species, and pathogen involved. As exemplified by the PR-1 proteins in Arabidopsis and rice, many homologous proteins belonging to the same family are regulated developmentally and may serve different functions in specific organs or tissues. Several defense-related proteins are induced during senescence, wounding or cold stress, and some possess antifreeze activity. Many defense-related proteins are present constitutively in floral tissues and a substantial number of PR-like proteins in pollen, fruits, and vegetables can provoke allergy in humans. The evolutionary conservation of similar defense-related proteins in monocots and dicots, but also their divergent occurrence in other conditions, suggest that these proteins serve essential functions in plant life, whether in defense or not.