We have established the DNA sequence and analyzed the transcription and translation products of a series of putative nodulation (nod) genes in Rhizobium meliloti strain 1021. Four loci have been designated nodF, nodE, nodG and nodH. The correlation of transposon insertion positions with phenotypes and open reading frames was confirmed by sequencing the insertion junctions of the transposons. The protein products of these nod genes were visualized by in vitro expression of cloned DNA segments in a R. meliloti transcription-translation system. In addition, the sequence for nodG was substantiated by creating translational fusions in all three reading frames at several points in the sequence; the resulting fusions were expressed in vitro in both E. coli and R. meliloti transcription-translation systems. A DNA segment bearing several open reading frames downstream of nodG corresponds to the putative nod gene mutated in strain nod-216. The transcription start sites of nodF and nodH were mapped by primer extension of RNA from cells induced with the plant flavone, luteolin. Initiation of transcription occurs approximately 25 bp downstream from the conserved sequence designated the "nod box," suggesting that this conserved sequence acts as an upstream regulator of inducible nod gene expression. Its distance from the transcription start site is more suggestive of an activator binding site rather than an RNA polymerase binding site.