Homologous recombination is an important means of eliminating DNA double strand breaks from chromosomes. The homologous recombination reaction is mediated by the Rad51 recombinase, which requires a number of ancillary factors for maximal efficiency. The development of purification procedures and biochemical assays for yeast Rad51 and other yeast recombination proteins has allowed investigators to begin dissecting the hierarchy of physical and functional interactions among these protein factors that govern the integrity of the homologous recombination machinery. The biochemical studies done with yeast recombination factors have helped formulate conceptual frameworks to guide similar endeavors in other eukaryotes, including humans. Continuing efforts with reconstituted systems that comprise yeast factors will undoubtedly continue to provide insights into the mechanistic intricacy of the homologous recombination machinery.