The peribacteroid membrane (pbm) of root nodules is derived from the plant cell plasma membrane but contains in addition several nodule-specific host proteins (nodulins). Antibodies raised against purified pbm of soybean were used to immunoprecipitate polysomes to isolate an RNA fraction that served as a template for the synthesis of a cDNA probe for screening a nodule-specific cDNA library. Clone p1B1 was found to encode a 26.5 kDa polypeptide (nodulin-26) which is immunoprecipitable specifically with the anti-pbm serum. Nodulin-26 has features of a transmembrane protein and its structure differs from that of nodulin-24 which appears to be a surface protein of pbm. The expression of these two pbm nodulins was examined in nodules induced by Bradyrhizobium japonicum Tn5 mutants that arrest nodule development at different stages of pbm biosynthesis. Nodules that do not show release of bacteria from the infection thread express nodulin-24 at a very low level. In contrast, the expression of nodulin-26 occurs fully in nodules that form infection threads only and is not affected by the release of bacteria from the threads.