Nodulation and host-specific recognition of legumes such as peas and Vicia spp. are encoded by the nodulation (nod) genes of Rhizobium leguminosarum biovar viciae. One of these genes, nodO, has been shown to encode an exported protein that contains a multiple tandem repeat of a nine amino acid domain. This domain was found to be homologous to repeated sequences in a group of bacterial exported proteins that includes haemolysin, cyclolysin, leukotoxin and two proteases. These proteins are secreted by a mechanism that does not involve an N-terminal signal peptide. The NodO protein is present in the growth medium of Rhizobium bacteria induced for nod gene expression, and partial protein sequencing of the purified protein showed that there is no N-terminal cleavage of the exported protein. It has been suggested that the internally repeated domain of haemolysin may be involved in Ca2(+)-mediated binding to erythrocytes and we show that the NodO protein can bind 45Ca2+. It is proposed that the NodO protein may interact directly with plant root cells in a Ca2(+)-dependent way, thereby mediating an early stage in the recognition that occurs between Rhizobium and its host legume.