High-affinity binding sites for the hnRNP A1 protein stimulate the use of a distal 5' splice site in mammalian pre-mRNAs. Notably, strong A1-mediated shifts in splice site selection are not accompanied by equivalent changes in the assembly of U1 snRNP-containing complexes on competing 5' splice sites. To explain the above results, we have proposed that an interaction between hnRNP A1 molecules bound to high-affinity sites loops out the internal 5' splice site. Here, we present additional evidence in support of the looping out model. First, replacing A1 binding sites with sequences that can generate a loop through RNA duplex formation activates distal 5' splice site usage in an equivalent manner. Second, increasing the distance between the internal 5' splice site and flanking A1 binding sites does not compromise activation of the distal 5' splice site. Similar results were obtained with pre-mRNAs carrying inverted repeats. Using a pre-mRNA containing only one 5' splice site, we show that splicing is repressed when flanked by two high-affinity A1 binding sites or by inverted repeats, and that inactivation of the internal 5' splice site is sufficient to elicit a strong increase in the use of the distal donor site. Our results are consistent with the view that the binding of A1 to high-affinity sites promotes loop formation, an event that would repress the internal 5' splice site and lead to distal 5' splice site activation.