We determined the effect on splicing of 24 point mutations in the 5' and 3' splice region of the large rabbit beta-globin intron. In vitro, 3' AG mutations drastically reduce 5' cleavage and abolish splicing. In vivo, the same mutations elicit efficient splicing at a cryptic, rather than the correct, 3' splice site. In vitro, mutations at all but 2 positions of the consensus 5' splice region impair correct splicing and promote joining of exon 1 to exon 3. In vivo, the same mutations show no effect, except for those converting 5' GT to AT or GA, which cause accumulation of lariat intermediate in vitro and in vivo. We conclude that the 5' GT need not be conserved for 5' cleavage and that it plays an important role in cleavage and exon joining at the 3' splice site.