The human erythrocyte alpha-spectrin gene which spans 80 kbp has been cloned from human genomic DNA as overlapping lambda recombinants. The exon-intron junctions were identified and the exons mapped. The gene is encoded by 52 exons whose sizes range from 684 bp to the smallest of 18 bp. The donor and acceptor splice site sequences match the splice site consensus sequences, with the exception of one splice site where a donor sequence begins with -GC. The size and location of exons do not correlate with the 106-amino-acid repeat, except in three locations where the surrounding codons are conserved as well. The lack of correspondence between exons and 106-amino-acid repeat is interpreted to reflect the appearance of a spectrin-like gene from a minigene early in the evolution of eukaryotes. Since current evidence indicates that introns were present in genes before the divergence of prokaryotes and eukaryotes, it is possible that the original distribution of introns within the minigene has been lost by the random deletion of introns from the spectrin gene.