Arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi stimulate root development and induce expression of mycorrhization-specific genes in both eudicots and monocots. Diffusible factors released by AM fungi have been shown to elicit similar responses in Medicago truncatula. Colonization of roots by AM fungi is inhibited by ethylene. We compared the effects of germinating spore exudates (GSE) from Glomus intraradices in monocots and in eudicots, their genetic control, and their regulation by ethylene. GSE modify root architecture and induce symbiotic gene expression in both monocots and eudicots. The genetic regulation of root architecture and gene expression was analyzed using M. truncatula and rice symbiotic mutants. These responses are dependent on the common symbiotic pathway as well as another uncharacterized pathway. Significant differences between monocots and eudicots were observed in the genetic control of plant responses to GSE. However, ethylene inhibits GSE-induced symbiotic gene expression and root development in both groups. Our results indicate that GSE signaling shares similarities and differences in monocots versus eudicots, that only a subset of AM signaling pathways has been co-opted in legumes for the establishment of root nodulation with rhizobia, and that regulation of these pathways by ethylene is a feature conserved across higher land plants.