Cre- of bacteriophage P1 has become one of the most widely used tools for genetic engineering in eukaryotes. The origins of this tool date to more than 30 years ago when Nat L. Sternberg discovered the recombinase, Cre, and its specific locus of crossover, , while studying the maintenance of bacteriophage P1 as a stable plasmid. Recombinations mediated by Cre assist in cyclization of the DNA of infecting phage and in resolution of prophage multimers created by generalized recombination. Early in vitro work demonstrated that, although it shares similarities with the well-characterized bacteriophage λ integration, Cre- is in many ways far simpler in its requirements for carrying out recombination. These features would prove critical for its development as a powerful and versatile tool in genetic engineering. We review the history of the discovery and characterization of Cre- and touch upon the present direction of Cre- research.


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