The Pto resistance gene in a gene-for-gene interaction with the avrPto avirulence gene governs resistance to bacterial speck of tomato. A member of a small gene family in tomato, Pto encodes a serine/threonine kinase that interacts in the yeast two-hybrid system with the product of avrPto, an 18-kDa hydrophilic protein. Over the past decade, studies of these genes, their products, and the defence response signalling pathway they govern have led to significant advances in our understanding of the biochemistry of Pto, the bacterial delivery and Pto recognition specificity for AvrPto, and candidate components in the pathway and their potential functions. This article provides an update of recent advances, which include the discovery of AvrPto structure–function relationships in disease and resistance, discovery of a second avirulence protein (AvrPtoB) recognized by Pto and its limited similarity to AvrPto, expression analysis and functional characterization of transcription factors Pti4, Pti5, and Pti6 that interact with Pto, analyses of Pto over-expression that activates defence responses independent of AvrPto, and comparisons of Pto gene family members and homologues in tomato and other Solanaceae, as well as other plant species. These comparisons, in particular, have provided exciting new insight into the antiquity of the Pto gene family and of the capacity for specific recognition of AvrPto that activates plant defence.