Intron lariat formation between the 5' end of an intron and a branchpoint adenosine is a fundamental aspect of the first step in animal and yeast nuclear pre-mRNA splicing. Despite similarities in intron sequence requirements and the components of splicing, differences exist between the splicing of plant and vertebrate introns. The identification of AU-rich sequences as major functional elements in plant introns and the demonstration that a branchpoint consensus sequence was not required for splicing have led to the suggestion that the transition from AU-rich intron to GC-rich exon is a major potential signal by which plant pre-mRNA splice sites are recognized. The role of putative branchpoint sequences as an internal signal in plant intron recognition/definition has been re-examined. Single nucleotide mutations in putative branchpoint adenosines contained within CUNAN sequences in four different plant introns all significantly reduced splicing efficiency. These results provide the most direct evidence to date for preferred branchpoint sequences being required for the efficient splicing of at least some plant introns in addition to the important role played by AU sequences in dicot intron recognition. The observed patterns of 3' splice site selection in the introns studied are consistent with the scanning model described for animal intron 3' splice site selection. It is suggested that, despite the clear importance of AU sequences for plant intron splicing, the fundamental processes of splice site selection and splicing in plants are similar to those in animals.