Despite being sessile organisms constantly exposed to potential pathogens and pests, plants are surprisingly resilient to infections. Plants can detect invaders via the recognition of pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) by pattern recognition receptors (PRRs). Plant PRRs are surface-localized receptor-like kinases, which comprise a ligand-binding ectodomain and an intracellular kinase domain, or receptor-like proteins, which do not exhibit any known intracellular signaling domain. In this review, we summarize recent discoveries that shed light on the molecular mechanisms underlying ligand perception and subsequent activation of plant PRRs. Notably, plant PRRs appear as central components of multiprotein complexes at the plasma membrane that contain additional transmembrane and cytosolic kinases required for the initiation and specificity of immune signaling. PRR complexes are under tight control by protein phosphatases, E3 ligases, and other regulatory proteins, illustrating the exquisite and complex regulation of these molecular machines whose proper activation underlines a crucial layer of plant immunity. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.