A simple, efficient method for introducing recombinant DNA into a herpesvirus vector and retrieving it at a later time has been developed. By using the Cre-lox site-specific recombination system of coliphage P1, DNA can be readily inserted in vitro into a pseudorabies virus (PRV) vector containing the lox recombination site. The vector PRV42 contains a lox site within the nonessential gIII gene, which encodes a virion envelope glycoprotein. Incubation in vitro of PRV42 DNA with Cre protein and a circular plasmid containing a lox site generates approximately 5% recombinant molecules having the plasmid integrated into the PRV genome at the lox site. Transfection of the reaction mixture into cultured cells allows recovery of the infectious recombinant virus, which is readily identified by a nondestructive "black-plaque assay" using a gIII-specific monoclonal antibody. PRV42 plaques stain black when treated with the gIII monoclonal antibody and a peroxidase-linked second anti-antibody because the lox site placed within the gIII gene of PRV42 does not destroy the gIII epitope. However, Cre-mediated integration of heterologous DNA at the lox site disrupts the gIII epitope so that the resulting recombinant virus produces white plaques. The recombinant virus is infectious, stable, and grows as well as the parental PRV42 vector. The inserted plasmid can be efficiently excised (greater than 50%) from viral DNA by Cre and recovered by transformation of Escherichia coli.