The positive activation of several nodulation genes in strain ANU843 of Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar trifolii is mediated by the product of the nodD gene and by the interaction of NodD with plant-secreted inducer and anti-inducer compounds. We have mutagenized the nodD gene of strain ANU843 with nitrosoguanidine and have found that the ability of the mutated nodD products to interact with inducer and anti-inducer compounds is affected by the amino acid sequence in at least two key regions, including a novel area between amino acids 77 and 123. Several novel classes of mutants were recognized by phenotypic and molecular analysis of the mutant nodD genes. Classes 1 and 4 mutants were able to induce nodA expression independently of the addition of inducer and anti-inducer compounds and were unable to mediate autoregulation of the nodD gene. Classes 2 and 3 mutants retained several properties of the wild-type nodD, including the ability to interact with inducer and anti-inducer compounds and the capacity to autoregulate nodD expression. In addition, class 2 mutants showed an inducer-independent ability to mediate nodA expression to 10-fold higher levels over control strains. The class 3 mutant showed reactivity to compounds that had little or no inducing ability with the wild-type nodD. An alteration in NodD function was demonstrated with classes 2 and 3 mutants, which showed greatly enhanced ability to complement a Tn5-induced mutation in the nodD1 gene of strain NGR234 and to restore nodulation ability on the tropical legume siratro. Mutants of nodD possessing inducer-independent ability to activate nod gene expression (classes 1, 2, and 4) were capable of extending the host range of R. l. bv. trifolii to the nonlegume Parasponia. DNA sequence analysis showed that single base changes were responsible for the altered phenotypic properties of five of six mutants examined. Four of the six mutations affected amino acid residues in a putative receiver domain in the N-terminal end of the nodD protein.