The rice Waxy gene encodes a granule-bound starch synthase (GBSS) necessary for the synthesis of amylose in endosperm tissue. We have previously shown that a CT microsatellite near the transcriptional start site of the GBSS gene can distinguish 7 alleles that accounted for more than 80% of the variation in apparent amylose content in an extended pedigree of 89 US rice cultivars (Oryza sativa L.). Furthermore, all the cultivars with 18% or less amylose were shown to have the sequence AGTTATA at the putative leader intron 5' splice site, while all cultivars with a higher proportion of amylose had AGGTATA. Here we demonstrate that this single-base mutation reduces the efficiency of GBSS pre-mRNA processing and results in alternate splicing at three cryptic sites. The predominant 5' splice site in CT18 low-amylose varieties is 93 bp upstream of the splice site used in intermediate and high amylose varieties and is immediately 5' to the CT microsatellite that we previously demonstrated to be tightly correlated with amylose content. Use of the leader intron 5' splice site at either -93 or -1 in conjunction with the predominant 3' splice site results in formation of a small open reading frame 38 bp upstream of the normal ATG and out of frame with it. This open reading frame is not produced when any of the 5' leader intron splice sites are used in conjunction with an alternate 3' splice site five bases further downstream which was observed in all rice varieties tested.