In this study, an isolate of Magnaporthe oryzae expressing the green fluorescent protein gene (gfp) was used to monitor early events in the interaction of M. oryzae with resistant rice cultivars harbouring a blast resistance (R) gene. In the resistant cultivars Saber and TeQing (Pib gene), M. oryzae spores germinated normally on the leaf surface but produced morphologically abnormal germ tubes. Germling growth and development were markedly and adversely affected in leaves of these resistant cultivars. Penetration of host cells was never seen, supporting the idea that disruption of germling development on the leaf surface might be one of the resistance mechanisms associated with Pib function. Thus, this particular R gene appeared to function in the absence of host penetration by the fungal pathogen. Confocal laser scanning microscopy of M. oryzae-infected susceptible rice cultivars showed the dimorphic growth pattern that is typically observed during the biotrophic and necrotrophic stages of leaf colonization in susceptible cultivars. The suitability of the gfp-expressing M. oryzae isolate for further research on R-gene function and identification of resistant genotypes in rice germplasm collections is discussed.