Method and compositions are provided for replication and expression of exogenous genes in microorganisms. Plasmids or virus DNA are cleaved to provide linear DNA having ligatable termini to which is inserted a gene having complementary termini, to provide a biologically functional replicon with a desired phenotypical property. The replicon is inserted into a microorganism cell by transformation. Isolation of the transformants provides cells for replication and expression of the DNA molecules present in the modified plasmid. The method provides a convenient and efficient way to introduce genetic capability into microorganisms for the production fo nucleic acids and proteins, such as medically or commercially useful enzymes, which may have direct usefulness, or may find expression in the productionof drugs, such as hormones, antibiotics, or the like, fixation of nitrogen, fermentation, utilization of specific feedstocks, or the like.