Establishment of the nitrogen-fixing nodulation symbiosis between legumes and rhizobia requires plant-wide reprogramming to allow infection and development of nodules. Nodulation is regulated principally via a mechanism called autoregulation of nodulation (AON). AON is dependent on shoot and root factors and is maintained by the nodulation autoregulation receptor kinase (NARK) in soybean. We developed a bioassay to detect root-derived signalling molecules in xylem sap of soybean plants which may function in AON. The bioassay involves feeding of xylem extracts via the cut hypocotyl of soybean seedlings and monitoring of molecular markers of AON in the leaf. Transcript abundance changes occurring in the leaf in response to feeding were used to determine the biological activity of the extracts. To identify transcript abundance changes that occur during AON, which may also be used in the bioassay, we used an RNA-seq-based transcriptomics approach. We identified changes in the leaves of bioassay plants fed with xylem extracts derived from either Bradyrhizobium japonicum-inoculated or uninoculated plants. Differential expression responses were detected for genes involved in jasmonic acid metabolism, pathogenesis and receptor kinase signalling. We identified an inoculation- and NARK-dependent candidate gene (GmUFD1a) that responds in both the bioassay and intact, inoculated plants. GmUFD1a is a component of the ubiquitin-dependent protein degradation pathway and provides new insight into the molecular responses occurring during AON. It may now also be used in our feeding bioassay as a molecular marker to assist in identifying the factors contributing to the systemic regulation of nodulation.