Activation of systemic acquired resistance in plants is associated with transcriptome reprogramming induced by the unstable coactivator NPR1. Immune-induced ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation of NPR1 are thought to facilitate continuous delivery of active NPR1 to target promoters, thereby maximising gene expression. Because of this potentially costly sacrificial process, we investigated if ubiquitination of NPR1 plays transcriptional roles prior to its proteasomal turnover. Here we show ubiquitination of NPR1 is a progressive event in which initial modification by a Cullin-RING E3 ligase promotes its chromatin association and expression of target genes. Only when polyubiquitination of NPR1 is enhanced by the E4 ligase, UBE4, it is targeted for proteasomal degradation. Conversely, ubiquitin ligase activities are opposed by UBP6/7, two proteasome-associated deubiquitinases that enhance NPR1 longevity. Thus, immune-induced transcriptome reprogramming requires sequential actions of E3 and E4 ligases balanced by opposing deubiquitinases that fine-tune activity of NPR1 without strict requirement for its sacrificial turnover.