The DNA content of bacteroids from 22 different Rhizobium-legume associations was compared to that of the corresponding free living Rhizobium species using laser flow microfluorometry. In all 18 effective associations, the bacteroids had either similar or higher DNA content than the free living rhizobia. Bacteroid populations isolated from effective clover (Trifolium repens) and alfalfa (Medicago sativa) nodules had an average DNA content of >1.5-fold higher than free living R. trifolii and R. meliloti. These populations also contained a significant number of bacteroids with more than 3-fold the DNA content of the free living rhizobia. Populations isolated from effective nodules of winged beans (Psophocarpus tetragonolobus), peas (Pisum sativum), and mung beans (Phaseolus aureus) had an average DNA content of 1.1- to 1.5-fold higher than free living R. “cowpeas” and R. leguminosarum. Bacteroids from nodules of lupins (Lupinus angustifolius and L. minaretta), kidney beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), and soybeans (Glycine max), however, had similar DNA content to the free living forms. Two of the four associations which formed ineffective nodules contained bacteroids with lower DNA content than the free living rhizobia. The other two associations contained bacteroids with slightly higher or similar DNA content to the free living rhizobia. Nodules of the ineffective associations also did not contain leghemoglobin.