Abstract Differential expression of phenylalanine ammonia-lyase (PAL), chalcone synthase (CHS) and isoflavone reductase (IFR) genes involved in phenylpropanoids metabolism was investigated using Northern blot analyses in chickpea seedlings bacterized with Rhizobium isolates (PchDMS and Pch43) and further challenged with Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. ciceris (Foc) race 0. Gene activation patterns in the moderately resistant accession INRAT87/1 were compared with those exhibited by the susceptible accession ILC482 at various time intervals after inoculation with Foc, to determine whether differences in levels or timing of transcript accumulation could be correlated with differences in the susceptibility of chickpea accessions to Foc. Gene activation was higher in the moderately resistant accession INRAT87/1 than in the susceptible ILC482. Pre-treatment of chickpea seedlings with Rhizobium isolates before inoculation with the pathogen enhanced the accumulation of the three genes’ mRNA transcripts. In parallel, changes in the soluble phenolic pool produced through pathways involving these enzymes were analyzed in chickpea roots. A strong accumulation of these compounds was revealed at 72 hpi in both accessions. After that time, these high levels of phenolic compounds were maintained until the end of the experiment in the moderately resistant accession, while they have significantly declined in the susceptible accession. HPLC analyses revealed a very high accumulation of the constitutive isoflavones, formononetin and biochanin A and their glycoside conjugates in chickpea roots inoculated with Rhizobium isolates and/or challenged with Foc, as compared to the controls. Our results suggest that the increased accumulation of phenolic compounds, observed in chickpea seedlings inoculated with Foc, can be attributed to increased expression of genes in the phenylpropanoid pathway and that such gene expression is enhanced by pre-treatment with Rhizobium isolates.