The transformation-associated recombination (TAR) cloning technique allows selective and accurate isolation of chromosomal regions and genes from complex genomes. The technique is based on in vivo recombination between genomic DNA and a linearized vector containing homologous sequences, or hooks, to the gene of interest. The recombination occurs during transformation of yeast spheroplasts that results in the generation of a yeast artificial chromosome (YAC) containing the gene of interest. To further enhance and refine the TAR cloning technology, we determined the minimal size of a specific hook required for gene isolation utilizing the Tg.AC mouse transgene as a targeted region. For this purpose a set of vectors containing a B1 repeat hook and a Tg.AC-specific hook of variable sizes (from 20 to 800 bp) was constructed and checked for efficiency of transgene isolation by a radial TAR cloning. When vectors with a specific hook that was >/=60 bp were utilized, approximately 2% of transformants contained circular YACs with the Tg.AC transgene sequences. Efficiency of cloning dramatically decreased when the TAR vector contained a hook of 40 bp or less. Thus, the minimal length of a unique sequence required for gene isolation by TAR is approximately 60 bp. No transgene-positive YAC clones were detected when an ARS element was incorporated into a vector, demonstrating that the absence of a yeast origin of replication in a vector is a prerequisite for efficient gene isolation by TAR cloning.