Root nodules are the symbiotic organ of legumes that house nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Many genes are specifically induced in nodules during the interactions between the host plant and symbiotic rhizobia. Information regarding the regulation of expression for most of these genes is lacking. One of the largest gene families expressed in the nodules of the model legume Medicago truncatula is the nodule cysteine-rich (NCR) group of defensin-like (DEFL) genes. We used a custom Affymetrix microarray to catalog the expression changes of 566 NCRs at different stages of nodule development. Additionally, bacterial mutants were used to understand the importance of the rhizobial partners in induction of NCRs. Expression of early NCRs was detected during the initial infection of rhizobia in nodules and expression continued as nodules became mature. Late NCRs were induced concomitantly with bacteroid development in the nodules. The induction of early and late NCRs was correlated with the number and morphology of rhizobia in the nodule. Conserved 41 to 50 bp motifs identified in the upstream 1,000 bp promoter regions of NCRs were required for promoter activity. These cis-element motifs were found to be unique to the NCR family among all annotated genes in the M. truncatula genome, although they contain sub-regions with clear similarity to known regulatory motifs involved in nodule-specific expression and temporal gene regulation.