Systemic acquired resistance (SAR) is usually described as a phenomenon whereby localized inoculation with a necrotizing pathogen renders a plant more resistant to subsequent pathogen infection. Here we show that Pseudomonas syringae strains for which Arabidopsis thaliana represents a non-host plant systemically elevate resistance although the underlying interactions neither trigger a hypersensitive response nor cause necrotic disease symptoms. A similar enhancement of systemic resistance was observed when elicitor-active preparations of two typical bacterial pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs), flagellin and lipopolysaccharides (LPS), were applied in a localized manner. Several lines of evidence indicate that the observed systemic resistance responses are identical to SAR. Localized applications of non-adapted bacteria, flagellin or LPS elevate levels of the SAR regulatory metabolite salicylic acid (SA) and pathogenesis-related (PR) gene expression not only in treated but also in distant leaves. All treatments also systemically increase expression of the SAR marker gene FLAVIN-DEPENDENT MONOOXYGENASE 1. Further, a whole set of SAR-deficient Arabidopsis lines, including mutants in SA biosynthesis and signalling, are impaired in establishing the systemic resistance response triggered by non-host bacteria or PAMPs. We also show that the magnitude of defence reactions such as SA accumulation, PR gene expression or camalexin accumulation induced at sites of virulent or avirulent P. syringae inoculation but not the extent of tissue necrosis during these interactions determines the extent of SAR in distant leaves. Our data indicate that PAMPs significantly contribute to SAR initiation in Arabidopsis and that tissue necroses at inoculation sites are dispensable for SAR activation.