The nitrogen-fixing symbiosis between legume plants and Rhizobium bacteria is the most prominent plant-microbe endosymbiotic system and, together with mycorrhizal fungi, has critical importance in agriculture. The introduction of two model legume species, Lotus japonicus and Medicago truncatula, has enabled us to identify a number of host legume genes required for symbiosis. A total of 26 genes have so far been cloned from various symbiotic mutants of these model legumes, which are involved in recognition of rhizobial nodulation signals, early symbiotic signaling cascades, infection and nodulation processes, and regulation of nitrogen fixation. These accomplishments during the past decade provide important clues to understanding not only the molecular mechanisms underlying plant-microbe endosymbiotic associations but also the evolutionary aspects of nitrogen-fixing symbiosis between legume plants and Rhizobium bacteria. In this review we survey recent progress in molecular genetic studies using these model legumes.