Susceptibility of sorghum to the fungal pathogen Periconia circinata and sensitivity to its host-specific toxin are determined by the semidominant allele at the pc locus. Pretreatment of susceptible seedlings with cycloheximide or cordycepin for 4 hr before treatment with the toxin protected the seedlings against toxin-induced loss of electrolytes and prevented development of disease symptoms. In vivo incorporation of [3H]leucine into protein was inhibited 91% and 47% by cycloheximide and cordycepin, respectively, but was not affected by the toxin. Gel electrophoresis and fluorography of in vivo-labeled proteins extracted from non-treated and toxin-treated root tips of near-isogenic susceptible and resistant lines revealed a selective increase in radioactivity of a protein band at Mr 16,000 only in preparations from toxin-treated susceptible root tips. Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis separated the Mr 16,000 band into four proteins and confirmed the increased rate of synthesis. Products of in vitro translation were substantially enriched with the four Mr 16,000 proteins when total RNA from toxin-treated susceptible root tips was used in a cell-free protein-synthesizing system. Because the proteins that increase are common to both susceptible and resistant genotypes, the toxin apparently interferes with a regulatory function, perhaps a function of the pc locus, and thereby alters gene expression in the susceptible genotype. The data suggest but do not establish that phytotoxicity results from the increased rate of synthesis of the specific proteins.