Symbiotic nitrogen fixation by Rhizobium meliloti requires the developmentally specific expression of certain bacterial genes. One set of these genes encodes the subunits of nitrogenase, the enzyme responsible for the reduction of atmospheric dinitrogen to ammonia, and another set consists of closely linked genes also essential for nitrogen fixation. Examination of promoter and probable regulatory regions for these gene sets has revealed extensive DNA sequence conservation for more than 160 bp upstream of the respective transcription start points. Three such promoter regions have been identified in the nitrogen fixation (nif) gene cluster of R. meliloti strain 102F34. Using one of these promoter regions as a hybridization probe, three additional sequences were found in the genome of this strain. The DNA of other R. meliloti strains and Rhizobium species were also examined for homology to the symbiotically regulated promoters of R. meliloti 102F34. DNA sequences homologous to these R. meliloti promoters were found among diverse rhizobia, and in at least some cases were associated with nif genes.