In tobacco, the defense alkaloid nicotine is produced in roots and accumulates mainly in leaves. Signaling mediated by jasmonates (JAs) induces the formation of nicotine via a series of structural genes that constitute a regulon and are coordinated by JA-responsive transcription factors of the ethylene response factor (ERF) family. Early steps in the pyrrolidine and pyridine biosynthesis pathways likely arose through duplication of the polyamine and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) biosynthetic pathways, respectively, followed by recruitment of duplicated primary metabolic genes into the nicotine biosynthesis regulon. Transcriptional regulation of nicotine biosynthesis by ERF and cooperatively-acting MYC2 transcription factors is implied by the frequency of cognate cis-regulatory elements for these factors in the promoter regions of the downstream structural genes. Indeed, a mutant tobacco with low nicotine content was found to have a large chromosomal deletion in a cluster of closely related ERF genes at the nicotine-controlling NICOTINE2 (NIC2) locus.