Extracts of S. cerevisiae cells can catalyze homologous recombination between plasmids in vitro. Extracts prepared from rad50, rad52 or rad54 disruption mutants all have reduced recombinational activity compared to wild-type. The rad52 and rad54 extracts are more impaired in the recombination of plasmids containing double-strand breaks than of intact plasmids, whereas rad50 extracts are deficient equally for both types of substrate. The nuclease RhoNuc (previously designated yNucR), encoded by the RNC1 (previously designated NUC2) gene and regulated by the RAD52 gene, is not required for recombination when one substrate is single-stranded but is essential for the majority of recombination events when both substrates are double-stranded. Furthermore, elimination of this nuclease restores recombination in rad52 extracts to levels comparable to those in wild-type extracts.