Basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) proteins constitute a large family of transcriptional regulators in plants. Although they have been shown to play important roles in a wide variety of developmental processes, relatively few have been functionally characterized. Here, we describe the map-based cloning of the Lotus japonicus ROOTHAIRLESS1 (LjRHL1) locus. Deleterious mutations in this locus prevent root hair development, which also aborts root hair-dependent colonization of the host root by nitrogen-fixing bacteria. We show that the LjRHL1 gene encodes a presumed bHLH transcription factor that functions in a nonredundant manner to control root hair development in L. japonicus. Homology search and cross-species complementation experiments defined three members of the Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) bHLH protein family, At2g24260, At4g30980, and At5g58010, as functionally equivalent to LjRHL1. Curiously, At2g24260 and At4g30980 mRNA species accumulate independently from the known positive regulators of root hair cell fate, while all three genes act in a partially redundant manner to regulate root hair development in Arabidopsis.