Benzothiadiazole (BTH) is a novel chemical activator of disease resistance in tobacco, wheat and other important agricultural plants. In this report, it is shown that BTH works by activating SAR in Arabidopsis thaliana. BTH-treated plants were resistant to infection by turnip crinkle virus, Pseudomonas syringae pv 'tomato' DC3000 and Peronospora parasitica. Chemical treatment induced accumulation of mRNAs from the SAR-associated genes, PR-1, PR-2 and PR-5. BTH treatment induced both PR-1 mRNA accumulation and resistance against P. parasitica in the ethylene response mutants, etr1 and ein2, and in the methyl jasmonate-insensitive mutant, jar1, suggesting that BTH action is independent of these plant hormones. BTH treatment also induced both PR-1 mRNA accumulation and P. parasitica resistance in transgenic Arabidopsis plants expressing the nahG gene, suggesting that BTH action does not require salicylic acid accumulation. However, because BTH-treatment failed to induce either PR-1 mRNA accumulation or P. parasitica resistance in the non-inducible immunity mutant, nim1, it appears that BTH activates the SAR signal transduction pathway.