The M1-type and M2-type isozymes of pyruvate kinase are produced from a single gene by mutually exclusive use of exons 9 and 10. Selection of exon 10 generates the M2 type, which occurs in most tissues, whereas the M1 type is expressed by use of exon 9 only in skeletal muscle, heart and brain. We investigated the mechanism by which exon 10, but not exon 9 is selected in M2-expressing cells by transfecting minigenes containing exon 9 and/or exon 10 in cells and by analyzing the transcripts using reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Deletion of the most conserved region in intron 8 did not affect selection of exon 10 in dRLh-84 cells, which express only the M2 type. Exclusion of exon 10 from the minigene resulted in two major spliced products. One included correctly spliced exon 9 and the other skipped this exon. Similar splicing patterns were observed when these minigenes were transfected in hepatocytes which express the L type, but not M1 or M2 types. The 5' splice site but not the 3' splice site of exon 9 was found to be hardly recognized by the splicing machinery in dRLh-84 cells. Mutation of the 5' splice site sequence of exon 9 to that of exon 10 and vice versa did not change the splicing patterns. However, mutation of this site of exon 9 to a perfectly complementary sequence of U1 snRNA resulted in selection of exon 9 correctly spliced to exon 10. A 9-10 fusion exon (constructed by substitution of 68 bases of the 3' portion of exon 9 and 33 bases of the 5' portion of intron 9 for the corresponding regions of exon 10 and intron 10) was also correctly incorporated into a major product together with exon 10. Thus, we propose that exon 9 is not recognized in non M1-expressing cells due to the weak signal of its 5' splice site and that, although the 5' splicing signal of exon 10 also appears to be weak, this exon can be recognized in these cells because the 5' recognition signal may be relatively strengthened by cis-acting element(s) which may be present in the 3' portion of exon 9 and the 5' portion of intron 9 and/or the corresponding regions of exon 10 and intron 10.