A complementary DNA encoding a salicylic acid (SA)-binding protein has been cloned. Its properties suggest involvement in SA-mediated induction of systemic acquired resistance (SAR) in plants. The sequence of the protein is similar to that of catalases and the protein exhibits catalase activity. Salicylic acid specifically inhibited the catalase activity in vitro and induced an increase in H2O2 concentrations in vivo. H2O2 or compounds, such as SA, that inhibit catalases or enhance the generation of H2O2, induced expression of defense-related genes associated with SAR. Thus, the action of SA in SAR is likely mediated by elevated amounts of H2O2.