Although it is clear that mammalian somatic cells possess the enzymatic machinery to perform homologous recombination of DNA molecules, the importance of this process in mitigating DNA damage has been uncertain. An initial genetic framework for studying homologous recombinational repair (HRR) has come from identifying relevant genes by homology or by their ability to correct mutants whose phenotypes are suggestive of recombinational defects. While yeast has been an invaluable guide, higher eukaryotes diverge in the details and complexity of HRR. For eliminating DSBs, HRR and end-joining pathways share the burden, with HRR contributing critically during S and G2 phases. It is likely that the removal of interstrand cross-links is absolutely dependent on efficient HRR, as suggested by the extraordinary sensitivity of the ercc1, xpf/ercc4, xrcc2, and xrcc3 mutants to cross-linking chemicals. Similarly, chromosome stability in untreated cells requires intact HRR, which may eliminate DSBs arising during DNA replication and thereby prevent chromosome aberrations. Complex regulation of HRR by cell cycle checkpoint and surveillance functions is suggested not only by direct interactions between human Rad51 and p53, c-Abl, and BRCA2, but also by very high recombination rates in p53-deficient cells.