The establishment of the legume-rhizobia symbiosis requires recognition of the bacterial microsymbiont at the root epidermis followed by initiation of plant infection and nodule organogenesis programmes. These phenomena are initiated by rhizobial lipochitooligosaccharidic symbiotic signals (the Nod factors). Studies of Nod factor activities, coupled with the recent cloning of genes required for their initiation, are leading to an understanding of the first steps in the signalling pathways. Moreover studies, especially on ethylene, auxin and cytokinin, have shown that phytohormones are involved in controlling or mediating symbiotic responses. The challenge for the future will be to establish how Nod factor signalling integrates with phytohormone activities in the control of infection and nodulation in the establishment of this agronomically and ecologically important symbiosis.