Using a simple oligo selection procedure, we have previously identified a tobacco sequence-specific DNA-binding activity, TDBA12, that increases markedly during the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV)-induced hypersensitive response (HR). Based on the binding specificity and the two cDNA clones isolated, TDBA12 is related to a novel class of DNA-binding factors containing WRKY domains. In the present study, we report that TDBA12 could be induced not only by TMV infection but also by treatment with salicylic acid (SA) or its biologically active analogs capable of inducing pathogenesis-related (PR) genes and enhanced resistance. TDBA12 was sensitive to temperature and the protein dissociating agent sodium deoxycholate, suggesting that it may be a multimeric factor in which protein–protein interaction is important for the enhanced DNA-binding activity. Pre-treatment of nuclear extracts with alkaline phosphatase abolished TDBA12, suggesting that protein phosphorylation is important for its high DNA-binding activity. TDBA12 specifically recognized the elicitor response element of the tobacco class I basic chitinase gene promoter. The increase in the levels of TDBA12 following TMV infection or SA treatment preceded the induced expression of the tobacco chitinase gene. These results strongly suggest that certain WRKY DNA-binding proteins may be activated by enhanced protein phosphorylation and regulate inducible expression of defense-related genes during pathogen- and SA-induced plant defense responses.