The calcitonin/calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) primary transcript is alternatively spliced in thyroid C cells and neurons, resulting in the tissue-specific production of calcitonin and CGRP mRNAs. Analyses of mutated calcitonin/CGRP transcription units in permanently transfected cell lines have indicated that alternative splicing is regulated by a differential capacity to utilize the calcitonin-specific splice acceptor. The analysis of an extensive series of mutations suggests that tissue-specific regulation of calcitonin mRNA production does not depend on the presence of a single, unique cis-active element but instead appears to be a consequence of suboptimal constitutive splicing signals. While only those mutations that altered constitutive splicing signals affected splice choices, the action of multiple regulatory sequences cannot be formally excluded. Further, we have identified a 13-nucleotide purine-rich element from a constitutive exon that, when placed in exon 4, entirely switches splice site usage in CGRP-producing cells. These data suggest that specific exon recruitment sequences, in combination with other constitutive elements, serve an important function in exon recognition. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that tissue-specific alternative splicing of the calcitonin/CGRP primary transcript is mediated by cell-specific differences in components of the constitutive splicing machinery.