We have cloned a SOMATIC EMBRYOGENESIS RECEPTOR KINASE (SERK) gene from Medicago truncatula (MtSERK1) and examined its expression in culture using real time PCR. In the presence of the auxin 1-naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA) alone, root differentiation occurs from the proliferating calli in both the cultured highly embryogenic seed line (2HA) and a low to nonembryogenic seed line (M. truncatula cv Jemalong). Auxin stimulated MtSERK1 expression in both 2HA and M. truncatula cv Jemalong. Embryo induction in proliferating calli requires a cytokinin in M. truncatula and unlike root formation is substantively induced in 2HA, not M. truncatula cv Jemalong. On embryo induction medium containing NAA and the cytokinin 6-benzylaminopurine (BAP), expression of MtSERK1 is elevated within 2 d of initiation of culture in both M. truncatula cv Jemalong and 2HA. However, MtSERK1 expression is much higher when both NAA and BAP are in the medium. BAP potentiates the NAA induction because MtSERK1 expression is not up-regulated by BAP alone. The 2HA genotype is able to increase its embryo formation because of the way it responds to cytokinin, but not because of the cytokinin effect on MtSERK1. Although the studies with M. truncatula indicate that somatic embryogenesis is associated with high SERK expression, auxin alone does not induce somatic embryogenesis as in carrot (Daucus carota) and Arabidopsis. Auxin in M. truncatula induces roots, and there is a clear up-regulation of MtSERK1. Although our analyses suggest that MtSERK1 is orthologous to AtSERK1, which in Arabidopsis is involved in somatic embryogenesis, in legumes, MtSERK1 may have a broader role in morphogenesis in cultured tissue rather than being specific to somatic embryogenesis.