We demonstrate the use of laser photoacoustic detection (LPAD) as a highly sensitive method to detect in planta nitric oxide ((*)NO) production from tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum). LPAD calibration against (*)NO gas demonstrated a linear relationship over 2 orders of magnitude with a detection threshold of <20 pmol h(-1) (1 part per billion volume [ppbv]). The specificity of the photoacoustic signal for (*)NO when adding gas or the (*)NO donor, sodium nitroprusside, on injection into plant leaves, was demonstrated by its abolition with O(3) ((*)NO + O(3) --> NO(2) + O(2)). The utility of the LPAD method was shown by examination of a nonhost hypersensitive response and a disease induced by Pseudomonas syringae (P. s.) pv phaseolicola and P. s. pv tabaci in tobacco. (*)NO was detected within 40 min of challenge with P. s. pv phaseolicola, some 5 h before the initiation of visible tissue collapse. The wildfire tobacco pathogen P. s. pv tabaci initiated (*)NO generation at 2 h postinfection. The use of (*)NO donors, the scavenger CPTIO ([4-carboxyphenyl]-4,5-dihydro-4,4,5,5-tetramethyl-3-oxide), and the mammalian nitric oxide synthase inhibitor l-NMMA (N(G)-monomethyl-l-arginine) indicated that (*)NO influenced the kinetics of cell death and resistance to both avirulent and virulent bacteria in tobacco. These observations suggest that (*)NO is integral to the elicitation of cell death associated with these two bacterial pathogens in tobacco.