Rhizopines are selective growth substrates synthesized in nodules only by strains of rhizobia capable of their catabolism. We report the isolation and study of genes for the synthesis and catabolism of a new rhizopine, scyllo-inosamine (sIa), from alfalfa nodules induced by Rhizobium meliloti Rm220-3. This compound is similar in structure to the previously described rhizopine 3-O-methyl-scyllo-inosamine from R. meliloti L5-30 (P.J. Murphy, N. Heycke, Z. Banfalvi, M.E. Tate, F.J. de Bruijn, A. Kondorosi, J. Tempé, and J. Schell, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 84:493-497, 1987). The synthesis (mos) and catabolism (moc) genes for the Rm220-3 rhizopine are closely linked and located on the nod-nif Sym plasmid. The mos genes are directly controlled by the NifA/NtrA regulatory system. A comparison of the sequence of the 5' regions of the two mos loci shows very extensive conservation of sequence as well as strong homology to the nifH coding region. Restriction mapping and hybridization to DNA from the four open reading frames (ORFs) of the L5-30 mos locus indicate the absence of mosA and presence of the other three ORFs (ORF1 and mosB and -C) in Rm220-3. We suggest that the L5-30 mosA gene product is involved in the conversion of scyllo-inosamine to 3-O-methyl-scyllo-inosamine. Restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis of the moc regions of both strains shows that they are very similar. Regulation studies indicate that the moc region is not controlled by the common regulatory gene nifA, ntrA, and ntrC. We discuss the striking similarities in gene structure, location, and regulation between these two rhizopine loci in relation to the rhizopine concept.