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Flooding-based route discovery is widely assumed in existing routing protocols of wireless ad hoc networks. Network-wide flooding enables the discovery of optimal routes from sources to destinations; however, as all network nodes are required to participate in the relays of route request packets, substantial control overhead is inevitable. Some efficient broadcast schemes can suppress redundant packet relays, but they often suppress the discovery of optimal routes, too. In this article we propose to dynamically create a prerouting region between each source-destination pair and limit the propagations of route request packets only within this region. The prerouting region effectively restricts route discovery activities to the nodes that most likely constitute the optimal or near-optimal routes. Consequently, not only is route construction overhead significantly reduced; route optimality is also guaranteed. The article presents a region-based routing (REGR) protocol covering both new route formation cases and route update cases. Simulations show that our protocol is particularly beneficial to dense and large-scale mobile ad hoc networks.