In order to complete its life cycle, a cyst nematode must stimulate the production of a specialized syncytial feeding site within host root tissues. This process is characterized by major changes in local root morphology, including enlargement of affected nuclei and nucleoli, cell wall degradation, and proliferation of subcellular organelles. At the molecular level very little is known about the processes involved in this host response, but recent evidence suggests that cyst nematodes are able to regulate specific host genes. The host-parasite model system provided by Arabidopsis thaliana and Heterodera schachtii will be fundamental to our future understanding of the formation of syncytia. Molecular biology now offers us the opportunity to study this complex host-parasite interaction in great detail. A better understanding of the host genes regulated by cyst nematodes and the mechanisms by which this regulation is achieved will facilitate the engineering of crop cultivars that possess novel forms of resistance to these adept parasites.