In this paper studies on the role of flavonoids in pea root nodule development are reported. Flavonoid synthesis was followed by localizing chalcone synthase (CHS) mRNA in infected pea roots and in root nodules. In a nodule primordium, CHS mRNA is present in all cells of the primordium. Therefore it is hypothesized that the Rhizobium Nod factor induces cell division in the root cortex by stimulating the production of flavonoids that function as auxin transport inhibitors. In nodules CHS mRNA is predominantly present in a region at the apex of the nodule consisting of meristematic and cortical cells. These cells are not infected by Rhizobium. Therefore it is postulated that CHS plays a role in nodule development rather than in a defence response. In roots CHS mRNA is located at a similar position as in nodules, suggesting that CHS has the same function in both root and nodule development. When nodules are formed by mutants of Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. viciae that are unable to secrete (1-2) glucan and to synthesize the O-antigen containing LPS I, CHS genes are also expressed in regions of the nodule that are infected by Rhizobium. It is postulated that the impaired development of nodules formed by these mutants is due to an induction of a plant defence response.