The chicken beta-tropomyosin gene contains 11 exons, two of which are spliced into mRNA only in skeletal muscle. One pair of alternative exons, 6A and 6B, is found in the middle of the gene; they are spliced in a mutually exclusive manner. The non-muscle splice 6A-7 is by far the predominant in vitro reaction in a HeLa cell nuclear extract. A minor product is the 6A-6B splice, which is excluded in all tissues. This minor product results from the use of a branch point located 105 nt upstream of the 3' end of the intron separating exons 6A and 6B. The region between the branch point sequence and the final AG contains a stretch of approximately 80 pyrimidines. We have examined the role of the distance of the branchpoint to the 3' splice site and of the sequences between these two elements. Our results suggest that at least two cis-acting elements contribute to the mutual exclusivity of exons 6A and 6B. The intron between exons 6A and 6B is intrinsically poorly 'spliceable' both because the branch point is too far upstream of the 3' end of the intron to give efficient splicing and because of the particular sequence lying between this branch point and the 3' splice site.