Analyses of emerging concepts indicate that parallels exist between self-incompatibility and pathogen recognition. In the case of surveillance of 'nonself', plant immune responses are triggered either by pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) that detect conserved pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) or by resistance (R) proteins recognizing isolate-specific pathogen effectors. PAMP detection is an important component of innate immunity in plants and serves as an early warning system for the presence of potential pathogens and activation of plant defense mechanisms. In the Brassicaceae, the recognition of 'self' and self-incompatibility are components of a receptor-ligand based mechanism that utilizes an S receptor kinase (SRK) to perceive and reject 'self'-pollen. SRK is an S-domain receptor-like kinase (RLK), which in turn is part of the RLK family, some members of which represent PRRs involved in the detection of PAMPs. S-domain RLKs also occur in species that do not exhibit self-incompatibility and are up-regulated in response to wounding, PAMPs and pathogen recognition. Although evolution may have driven expansion of certain RLK families to serve roles in particular physiological processes, this may not exclude these receptor types from functioning in different programs. Recent findings on self/nonself recognition are reviewed and conceptual and mechanistic links between microbial recognition and self-incompatibility are discussed.