A system which allows direct selection for curing of plasmids in Gram-negative bacteria was used to generate derivatives of Rhizobium leguminosarum VF39 cured of each of six plasmids present in this strain. Phenotypes could be correlated with the absence of five of the six plasmids. The smallest plasmid, pRleVF39a, carries genes for the production of a melanin-like pigment as has been previously reported. Plasmid pRleVF39d carries nodulation and nitrogen fixation genes. Curing of the plasmids pRleVF39c and pRleVF39e gave rise to strains which formed Fix- nodules on peas, lentils, and faba beans. The nodules formed by the strains cured of pRleVF39c contained few, if any, bacteria. Analysis of washed cells by SDS-PAGE showed that this strain is defective in lipopolysaccharide (LPS) production; the defect could be complemented by introducing plasmids from several other R. leguminosarum strains, and by the R. leguminosarum biovar phaseoli LPS gene clones pCos126 and pDel27. The nodules formed by the strain cured of pRleVF39e had a reduced symbiotic zone, an enlarged senescence zone, and an abundance of starch granules. This strain grew at a much slower rate than the wild type, was unable to grow on minimal medium, and no longer produced melanin. These defects could be complemented by at least one other Rhizobium plasmid, pRle336e, a plasmid of strain 336 which is distinct from the nodulation plasmid (pRle336c) and the plasmid (pRle336d) which could complement the LPS defect associated with the loss of pRleVF39c. This demonstrates that genes necessary for symbiosis can be carried on at least three different plasmids in R. leguminosarum.