Race-specific resistance in plants against microbial pathogens is governed by several distinct classes of resistance (R) genes. This review focuses on the class that consists of the plasma membrane-bound leucine-rich repeat proteins known as receptor-like proteins (RLPs). The first isolated resistance genes of the RLP class are the tomato Cf genes, which confer resistance to the fungal pathogen Cladosporium fulvum. To date, several other RLP genes are known to be implicated in resistance in other plant–pathogen interactions. These include HcrVf2 from apple, Ve1 and Ve2 from tomato, and RPP27 from Arabidopsis, which are involved in resistance to Venturia, Verticillium and Peronospora, respectively. Furthermore, the tomato RLP gene LeEix initiates defence responses upon elicitation with a fungal ethylene-inducing xylanase (EIX) of non-pathogenic Trichoderma. The tomato Cf genes, which are the most intensively studied RLP resistance genes, are usually found in clusters of several homologues. Whereas some of these homologues are functional Cf resistance genes, others have no known function in resistance. Different evolutionary processes contribute to variation in functional Cf genes, and functional as well as non-functional homologues may provide a source for the generation of novel Cf resistance genes. To date, little is known of the proteins that interact with Cf proteins to initiate defence responses. In contrast to the LeEix protein and the corresponding EIX elicitor, for which a direct interaction was found, no direct interaction between Cf proteins and the corresponding C. fulvum elicitors has been demonstrated. Analogous to the CLAVATA signalling complex, which comprises an RLP, a receptor-like kinase (RLK) and a small proteineous ligand, Cf proteins may form a complex with RLKs and thus initiate signalling upon recognition of the corresponding elicitors. The presence of RLP resistance genes in diverse plant species suggests that these genes play an important role in the extracellular recognition of plant pathogens.