Salicylic acid (SA) has been proposed to play a role in the induction of pathogenesis-related (PR) proteins and systemic acquired resistance (SAR) in tobacco. Since SA is rapidly converted to salicylic acid beta-glucoside (SAG) in tobacco, we have attempted to assess the role of SAG in pathogenesis by application of chemically synthesized SAG to tobacco leaves. SAG was as active as SA in induction of PR-1 gene expression. This induction was preceded by a transient release of SA, which occurred in the extracellular spaces. The existence of a mechanism that releases SA from SAG suggests a possible role for SAG in SAR.