We show that a cellular nuclear protein, the SR splicing factor SF2/ASF, controls the level of production of an essential influenza virus protein, the M2 ion channel protein. The M2 mRNA that encodes the ion channel protein is produced by alternative splicing of another viral mRNA, M1 mRNA. The production of M2 mRNA is controlled in two ways. First, a distal (stronger) 5' splice site in M1 mRNA is blocked by the complex of viral polymerase proteins synthesized during infection, allowing the cellular splicing machinery to switch to the proximal (weaker) M2 5' splice site. Second, utilization of the weak M2 5' splice site requires its activation by the cellular SF2/ASF protein. This activation is mediated by the binding of the SF2/ASF protein to a purine-rich splicing enhancer sequence that is located in the 3' exon of M1 mRNA. We demonstrate that activation of the M2 5' splice site is controlled by the SF2/ASF protein in vivo during influenza virus infection. Utilizing four cell lines that differ in their levels of production of the SF2/ASF protein, we show that during virus infection of these cell lines both M2 mRNA and the M2 ion channel protein are produced in amounts that are proportional to the different expression levels of the SF2/ASF protein.