Rhizobium meliloti nod genes are required for the infection of alfalfa. Induction of the nodC gene depends on a chemical signal from alfalfa and on nodD gene expression. By using a nodC-lacZ fusion, we have shown that the induction of the R. meliloti nodC gene and the expression of nodD occur at almost normal levels in other Rhizobium backgrounds and in Agrobacterium tumefaciens, but not in Escherichia coli. Xanthomonas campestris, or Pseudomonas savastanoi. Our results suggest that bacterial genes in addition to nodDABC are required for nod gene response to plant cells. We have found that inducing activity is present in other plant species besides alfalfa. Acetosyringone, the A. tumefaciens vir gene inducer, does not induce nodC.