Homologous genetic recombination is an essential biological process that involves the pairing and exchange of DNA between two homologous chromosomes or DNA molecules. It is of fundamental importance to the preservation of genomic integrity, the production of genetic diversity, and the proper segregation of chromosomes. In Escherichia coli, the RecA protein is essential to recombination, and biochemical analysis demonstrates that it is responsible for the crucial steps of homologous pairing and DNA strand exchange. The presence of RecA-like proteins, or their functional equivalents, in bacteriophage, other eubacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes, confirms that the mechanism of homologous pairing and DNA strand exchange is conserved throughout all forms of life. This review focuses on the biochemical and physical characteristics of DNA strand exchange proteins from three diverse organisms: RecA protein from E. coli, UvsX protein from Bacteriophage T4, and RAD51 protein from Saccharomyces cerevisiae.