A molecular study of the mycorrhizal symbiosis between barley and Glomus intraradices used differential display PCR and a synchronous colonization method to identify genes that are differentially expressed in symbiosis. Several PCR products were consistently differentially amplified. PCR amplification of genomic DNA from either G. intraradices or barley as templates showed that three such products were encoded by G. intraradices. Sequence analysis of the deduced amino acid sequences of the fungal fragments, following extension by 3'-RACE, revealed similarities to proteins from higher eukaryotes. One (GINMYC1) shows similarity to TRIP15, a human protein that interacts in a hormone-dependent manner with the thyroid receptor. A second (GINMYC2) is similar to O-linked N-acetylglucosamine transferases from vertebrates, and the third (GINHB1) contains a putative leucine zipper and a homeodomain which indicates that it binds DNA and may act as a transcriptional regulator. Fragments of the expected sizes were amplified by RT-PCR from mRNA of mycorrhizal barley roots for all three fungal cDNAs, which indicates that the corresponding genes are expressed during intraradical growth of G. intraradices. The results provide a promising insight to fungal gene expression early in formation of this compatible and mutualistic symbiosis.