In vivo expression technology (IVET) analysis of rhizosphere-induced genes in the plant growth-promoting rhizobacterium (PGPR) Pseudomonas fluorescens SBW25 identified a homologue of the type III secretion system (TTSS) gene hrcC. The hrcC homologue resides within a 20-kb gene cluster that resembles the type III (Hrp) gene cluster of Pseudomonas syringae. The type III (Rsp) gene cluster in P. fluorescens SBW25 is flanked by a homologue of the P. syringae TTSS-secreted protein AvrE. P. fluorescens SBW25 is non-pathogenic and does not elicit the hypersensitive response (HR) in any host plant tested. However, strains constitutively expressing the rsp-specific sigma factor RspL elicit an AvrB-dependent HR in Arabidopsis thaliana ecotype Col-0, and a host-specific HR in Nicotiana clevelandii. The inability of wild-type P. fluorescens SBW25 to elicit a visible HR is therefore partly attributable to low expression of rsp genes in the leaf apoplast. DNA hybridization analysis indicates that rsp genes are present in many plant-colonizing Pseudomonas and PGPR, suggesting that TTSSs may have a significant role in the biology of PGPR. However, rsp and rsc mutants retain the ability to reach high population levels in the rhizosphere. While functionality of the TTSS has been demonstrated, the ecological significance of the rhizosphere-expressed TTSS of P. fluorescens SBW25 remains unclear.