Actinorhizal plants are capable of high rates of nitrogen fixation, due to their capacity to establish a root-nodule symbiosis with N-2-fixing actinomycetes of the genus Frankia. Nodulation is an ontogenic process which requires a sequence of highly coordinated events. One of these mechanisms is the induction of defense-related events, whose precise role during nodulation is largely unknown. In order to contribute to the clarification of the involvement of defense-related genes during actinorhizal root-nodule symbiosis, we have analysed the differential expression of several genes with putative defense-related functions in Casuarina glauca nodules versus non-inoculated roots. Four genes encoding a chitinase (CgChi1), a glutathione S-transferase (CgGst), a hairpin-inducible protein (CgHin1) and a peroxidase (CgPox4) were found to be up-regulated in mature nodules compared to roots. In order to find out to which extend were the encoded proteins involved in nodule protection, development or both, gene regulation studies in response to SA and wounding as well as phylogenetic analysis of the protein sequences were performed. These were further characterized through expression studies after SA-treatment and wounding, and by phylogenetic analysis. We suggest that CgChi1 and CgGst are involved in defense or microsymbiont control and CgPox4 is involved in nodule development. For CgHin1 the question "defense, development or both" remains open.