In vitro translation products of total RNA isolated from soybean nodules at successive stages of nodule development were analyzed by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. In that way the occurrence of over 20 mRNAs specifically transcribed from nodulin genes was detected. The nodulin genes could be divided into two classes according to the time of expression during nodule development. Class A comprises at least 4 nodulin mRNAs which are found when a globular meristem is present in the root cortex. These class A nodulin genes have a transient expression. Class B nodulin genes are expressed when the formation of a nodule structure has been completed. Bradyrhizobium japonicum nod fix-mutants, with large deletions spanning the nif H,DK region, still induced nodules showing normal expression of all nodulin genes, indicating that the nif H,DK region is not involved in the induction of nodulin genes. In nodules induced by Bradyrhizobium japonicum nod fix-mutant HS124 the bacteria are rarely released from the infection thread and the few infected cells appear to be collapsed. All class A and class B nodulin genes are expressed in HS124 nodules with the exception of 5 class B genes.