Human pre-mRNA splicing factor SF2/ASF has an activity required for general splicing in vitro and promotes utilization of proximal alternative 5' splice sites in a concentration-dependent manner by opposing hnRNP A1. We introduced selected mutations in the N-terminal RNA recognition motif (RRM) and the C-terminal Arg/Ser (RS) domain of SF2/ASF, and assayed the resulting recombinant proteins for constitutive and alternative splicing in vitro and for binding to pre-mRNA and mRNA. Mutants inactive in constitutive splicing can affect alternative splice site selection, demonstrating that these activities involve distinct molecular interactions. Specific protein-RNA contact mediated by Phe56 and Phe58 in the RNP-1 submotif of the SF2/ASF RRM are essential for constitutive splicing, although they are not required for RRM-mediated binding to pre-mRNA. The RS domain is also required for constitutive splicing activity and both Arg and Ser residues are important. Analysis of domain deletion mutants demonstrated strong synergy between the RRM and a central degenerate RRM repeat in binding to RNA. These two domains are sufficient for alternative splicing activity in the absence of an RS domain.