- The ligand specificity of fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2) is determined by the alternative splicing of exons 8 (IIIb) or 9 (IIIc). Exon IIIb is included in epithelial cells, whereas exon IIIc is included in mesenchymal cells. Although a number of cis elements and trans factors have been identified that play a role in exon IIIb inclusion in epithelium, little is known about the activation of exon IIIc in mesenchyme. We report here the identification of a splicing enhancer required for IIIc inclusion. This 24-nucleotide (nt) downstream intronic splicing enhancer (DISE) is located within intron 9 immediately downstream of exon IIIc. DISE was able to activate the inclusion of heterologous exons rat FGFR2 IIIb and human beta-globin exon 2 in cell lines from different tissues and species and also in HeLa cell nuclear extracts in vitro. DISE was capable of replacing the intronic activator sequence 1 (IAS1), a known IIIb splicing enhancer and vice versa. This fact, together with the requirement for DISE to be close to the 5'-splice site and the ability of DISE to promote binding of U1 snRNP, suggested that IAS1 and DISE belong to the same class of cis-acting elements.