Disease resistance proteins containing a nucleotide binding site (NBS) and a leucine-rich repeat (LRR) region compose the largest class of disease resistance proteins. These so-called NBS-LRR proteins confer resistance against a wide variety of phytopathogens. To help elucidate the mechanism by which NBS-LRR proteins recognize and transmit pathogen-derived signals, we analyzed mutant versions of the Arabidopsis NBS-LRR protein RPS2. The RPS2 gene confers resistance against Pseudomonas syringae strains carrying the avirulence gene avrRpt2. The activity of RPS2 derivatives in response to AvrRpt2 was measured by using a functional transient expression assay or by expressing the mutant proteins in transgenic plants. Directed mutagenesis revealed that the NBS and an N-terminal leucine zipper (LZ) motif were critical for RPS2 function. Mutations near the N terminus, including an LZ mutation, resulted in proteins that exhibited a dominant negative effect on wild-type RPS2. Scanning the RPS2 molecule with a small in-frame internal deletion demonstrated that RPS2 does not have a large dispensable region. Overexpression of RPS2 in the transient assay in the absence of avrRpt2 also led to an apparent resistant response, presumably a consequence of a low basal activity of RPS2. The NBS and LZ were essential for this overdose effect, whereas the entire LRR was dispensable. RPS2 interaction with a 75-kD protein (p75) required an N-terminal portion of RPS2 that is smaller than the region required for the overdose effect. These findings illuminate the pathogen recognition mechanisms common among NBS-LRR proteins.