Background: Induction of plant immune responses involves significant transcription reprogramming that prioritizes defense over growth-related cellular functions. Despite intensive forward genetic screens and genome-wide expression-profiling studies, a limited number of transcription factors have been found that regulate this transition. Results: Using the endoplasmic-reticulum-resident genes required for antimicrobial protein secretion as markers, we identified a heat-shock factor-like transcription factor that specifically binds to the TL1 (GAAGAAGAA) cis element required for the induction of these genes. Surprisingly, plants lacking this TL1-binding factor, TBF1, respond normally to heat stress but are compromised in immune responses induced by salicylic acid and by microbe-associated molecular pattern, elf18. Genome-wide expression profiling indicates that TBF1 plays a key role in the growth-to-defense transition. Moreover, the expression of TBF1 itself is tightly regulated at both the transcriptional and translational levels. Two upstream open reading frames encoding multiple aromatic amino acids were found 5′ of the translation initiation codon of TBF1 and shown to affect its translation. Conclusions: Through this unique regulatory mechanism, TBF1 can sense the metabolic changes upon pathogen invasion and trigger the specific transcriptional reprogramming through its target genes expression. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.