We have developed a novel ex vivo system for the rapid one-step targeted modification of large eucaryotic DNA sequences. The highly recombinant environment resulting from infection of rabbit cornea cells with the Shope fibroma virus was exploited to mediate precise modifications of the complete chicken lysozyme gene domain (21.5 kb). Homologous recombination was designed to occur between target DNA (containing the complete lysozyme gene domain) maintained in a lambda bacteriophage vector and modified targeting DNA maintained in a plasmid. The targeting plasmids were designed to transfer exogenous sequences (for example, beta-galactosidase alpha-complement, green fluorescent protein, and hydrophobic tail coding sequences) to specific sites within the lysozyme gene domain. Cotransfection of the target phage and a targeting plasmid into Shope fibroma virus infected cells resulted in the poxvirus-mediated transfer of the modified sequences from plasmid to phage. Phage DNA (recombinant and nonrecombinant) was then harvested from the total cellular DNA by packaging into lambda phage particles and correct recombinants were identified. Four different gene-targeting pairings were carried out, and from 3% to 11% of the recovered phages were recombinant. Using this poxvirus-mediated targeting system, four different regions of the chicken lysozyme gene domain have been modified precisely by our research group overall with a variety of inserts (6-971 bp), deletions (584-3000 bp), and replacements. We have never failed to obtain the desired recombinant. Poxvirus-mediated recombination thus constitutes a routine, rapid, and remarkably efficient genetic engineering system for the precise modification of large eucaryotic gene domains when compared with traditional practices.