WAK1 (wall-associated kinase 1) is a cytoplasmic serine/threonine kinase that spans the plasma membrane and extends into the extracellular region to bind tightly to the cell wall. The Wak1 gene was mapped and found to lie in a tight cluster of five highly similar genes (Wak1-5) within a 30 kb region. All of the Wak genes encode a cytoplasmic serine/threonine protein kinase, a transmembrane domain, and an extracytoplasmic region with several epidermal growth factor (EGF) repeats. The extracellular regions also contain limited amino acid identities to the tenascin superfamily, collagen, or the neurexins. RNA blot analysis with gene-specific probes revealed that Wak1, Wak3 and Wak5 are expressed primarily in leaves and stems of Arabidopsis. Wak4 mRNA is only detected in siliques, while Wak2 mRNA is found in high levels in leaves and stems, and in lower levels in flowers and siliques. A trace amount of Wak2 can also be detected in roots. Wak1 is induced by pathogen infection and salicylic acid or its analogue INA and is involved in the plant's response, and Wak2, Wak3 and Wak5 also can be greatly induced by salicylic acid or INA. The WAK proteins have the potential to serve as both linkers of the cell wall to the plasma membrane and as signaling molecules, and since Wak expression is organ-specific and the isoforms vary significantly in the cell wall associated domain this family of proteins may be involved in cell wall-plasma membrane interactions that direct fundamental processes in angiosperms.