The rps12 gene codes for chloroplast ribosomal protein S12. In the tobacco chloroplast genome (156 kbp circular DNA), exons II and III of this gene are separated by an intron of 536 bases and are present in two copies in the inverted repeat region, while exon I is located in the large single copy region at a distance of 90 kb and 126 kb from the two copies of exons II and III. These three exons were artificially combined in cloned DNA fragments and hybridized with tobacco chloroplast RNA. Electron microscopic analysis of RNA-DNA hybrids showed that exon I is transcribed as part of a polycistronic RNA containing upstream and downstream sequences; the same is true for exons II and III. Exon I is shown to be transcribed separately from exons II and III. In the most abundant class of the hybridized RNA molecules, exon I was covalently linked to exon II. In these molecules the sequences downstream of exon I and upstream of exon II are not present. These data indicate that maturation of rps12 pre-mRNAs in chloroplasts of tobacco involves trans splicing.