The nodulation regulon of Rhizobium meliloti AK631 includes several operons (nodABC, hsnABC, hsnD, efn locus) which have in common a consensus promoter sequence called the nod box. A synthetic nod box probe was used to identify two additional nod boxes, n4 and n5, which were subcloned for study. By constructing lac fusions, we show that n4 and n5 sponsor induction of downstream regions as previously shown for n1-nodABC and n2-hsnABC. Using site-directed Tn5 mutagenesis, we find that the n5 locus plays a significant role in nodulation of alfalfa and sweetclover, whereas the n4 locus is important for alfalfa, but not for sweetclover. Hybridization data suggest that the n5 locus is conserved among Rhizobium species. In contrast, the n4 locus seems to be unique to Rhizobium meliloti strains, in agreement with the host-specific phenotype of n4 locus mutants. Thus, the use of a promoter probe allows us to identify nodulation genes which may be overlooked by standard methods such as random Tn5 mutagenesis.