A cDNA library prepared from pea nodule poly(A) RNA was screened by differential hybridization with cDNA probes synthesized from root and nodule RNA respectively. From the cDNA clones that hybridized exclusively with the nodule probe five clones, designated pPsNod 6, 10, 11, 13 and 14 and each containing unique sequences, were further characterized together with one leghemoglobin and one root-specific cDNA clone. In vitro translation of RNA selected by the pPsNod clones showed that the corresponding genes encode nodulins with molecular weights ranging from 5 800 to 19 000. During pea root nodule development expression of the five PsNod genes starts more or less concomitantly with the onset of nitrogen fixing activity in the nodules and the time course of appearance and accumulation of the nodulin mRNAs is similar to that of leghemoglobin mRNA. In ineffective pea root nodules expression of the PsNod genes is induced but the final accumulation levels of the mRNAs are markedly reduced to various degrees. The expression of another nodulin gene, designated ENOD2, was followed using a heterologous soybean cDNA clone as probe. In pea root nodules the ENOD2 gene is expressed at least five days before the PsNod and leghemoglobin genes, and in contrast to the PsNod mRNAs the concentration of the ENOD2 mRNA is the same in wild type and fix - nodules. The results described suggest that in root nodules several regulatory mechanisms exist which determine the final nodulin mRNA amounts accumulating in the root nodule.