Rhizobium loti is a fast-growing Rhizobium species that has been described as a microsymbiont of plants of the genus Lotus. Nodulation studies show that Lotus plants are nodulated by R. loti, but not by most other Rhizobium strains, indicating that R. loti produces specific lipo-chitin oligosaccharides (LCOs) which are necessary for the nodulation of Lotus plants. The LCOs produced by five different Rhizobium loti strains have been purified and were shown to be N-acetylglucosamine pentasaccharides of which the non-reducing residue is N-methylated and N-acylated with cis-vaccenic acid (C18:1) or stearic acid (C18:O) and carries a carbamoyl group. In one R. loti strain, NZP2037, an additional carbamoyl group is present on the non-reducing terminal residue. The major class of LCO molecules is substituted on the reducing terminal residue with 4-O-acetylfucose. Addition of LCOs to the roots of Lotus plants results in abundant distortion, swelling and branching of the root hairs, whereas spot inoculation leads to the formation of nodule primordia.