Rhizobium promoters involved in the formation of root nodules on leguminous plants are activated by flavonoids in plant root exudate. A series of Rhizobium strains which all contain the inducible Rhizobium leguminosarum nodA promoter fused to the Escherichia coli lacZ gene, and which differ only in the source of the regulatory nodD gene, were recently used to show that the regulatory nodD gene determines which flavonoids are able to activate the nodA promoter (HP Spaink, CA Wijffelman, E Pees, RJH Okker, BJJ Lugtenberg 1987 Nature 328: 337-340). Since these strains therefore are able to discriminate between various flavonoids, they were used to determine whether or not plants that are nodulated by R. leguminosarum produce different inducers. After chromatographic separation of root exudate constituents from Vicia sativa L. subsp. nigra (L.), V. hirsuta (L.) S.F. Gray, Pisum sativum L. cv Rondo, and Trifolium subterraneum L., the fractions were tested with a set of strains containing a nodD gene of R. leguminosarum, R. trifolii, or Rhizobium meliloti, respectively. It appeared that the source of nodD determined whether, and to what extent, the R. leguminosarum nodA promoter was induced. Lack of induction could not be attributed to the presence of inhibitors. Most of the inducers were able to activate the nodA promoter in the presence of one particular nodD gene only. The inducers that were active in the presence of the R. leguminosarum nodD gene were different in each root exudate.