We have identified a nodD gene from the wide host-range Rhizobium strain MPIK3030 (termed nodD1) which is essential for nodulation on Macroptilium atropurpureum (siratro). Experiments with nodA-lacZ gene fusions demonstrate that the MPIK3030 nodD1 regulates expression of the nodABC genes. Additionally, we used nodC-lacZ fusions of Rhizobium meliloti to show that the MPIK3030 nodD1 gene induces expression of these fusions by interacting with plant factors from siratro and from the non-host Medicago sativa (alfalfa). The R. meliloti nodD genes, however, only interact with alfalfa exudate. In line with these results, no complementation of MPIK3030 nodD1 mutants could be obtained on siratro with the R. meliloti nodD genes, while the MPIK3030 nodD1 can complement nodD mutants of R. meliloti on alfalfa. Furthermore, R. meliloti transconjugants harbouring the MPIK3030 nodD1 efficiently nodulate the illegitimate host siratro. When compared with other nodD sequences, the amino acid sequence of the MPIK3030 nodD1 shows a conserved aminoterminus, whereas the carboxy-terminus of the putative gene product diverges considerably. Studies on a chimeric MPIK3030/R. meliloti nodD gene indicates that the carboxy-terminal region is responsible for the interaction with plant factor(s) and may have evolved in different rhizobia specifically to interact with plant-host factors.