Jasmonates (JAs) are physiologically important molecules involved in a wide range of plant responses from growth, flowering, senescence to defence against abiotic and biotic stress. They are rapidly synthesised from α-linolenic acid (ALA; C18:3 ∆9,12,15) by a process of oxidation, cyclisation and acyl chain shortening involving co-operation between the chloroplast and peroxisome. The active form of JA is the isoleucine conjugate, JA-isoleucine (JA-Ile), which is synthesised in the cytoplasm. Other active metabolites of JA include the airborne signalling molecules, methyl JA (Me-JA) and cis-jasmone (CJ), which act as inter-plant signalling molecules activating defensive genes encoding proteins and secondary compounds such as anthocyanins and alkaloids. One of the key defensive metabolites in many plants is a protease inhibitor that inactivates the protein digestive capabilities of insects, thereby, reducing their growth. The receptor for JA-Ile is a ubiquitin ligase termed as SCFCoi1 that targets the repressor protein JA Zim domain (JAZ) for degradation in the 26S proteasome. Removal of JAZ allows other transcription factors (TFs) to activate the JA response. The levels of JA-Ile are controlled through catabolism by hydroxylating enzymes of the cytochrome P450 (CYP) family. The JAZ proteins act as metabolic hubs and play key roles in cross-talk with other phytohormone signalling pathways in co-ordinating genome-wide responses. Specific subsets of JAZ proteins are involved in regulating different response outcomes such as growth inhibition versus biotic stress responses. Understanding the molecular circuits that control plant responses to pests and pathogens is a necessary pre-requisite to engineering plants with enhanced resilience to biotic challenges for improved agricultural yields. © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the Biochemical Society.