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Here we report the use of exonuclease to expose complementary DNA between an insert and vector such that annealing becomes independent of restriction site compatibility. We demonstrate that unusual and, in some cases, previously impossible cloning strategies can be readily and efficiently achieved as long as the flanking sequences of the linear vectors are highly related. Furthermore, we show that the bacterial repair system resolves the residual mismatches, overhangs or gaps in a predictable fashion to generate excisable inserts. This approach facilitates cloning regardless of restriction site compatibility and overcomes an important limitation in current cloning techniques.