We report here that the apoptosis-promoting protein TIA-1 regulates alternative pre-mRNA splicing of the Drosophila melanogaster gene male-specific-lethal 2 and of the human apoptotic gene Fas. TIA-1 associates selectivity with pre-mRNAs that contain 5' splice sites followed by U-rich sequences. TIA-1 binding to the U-rich stretches facilitates 5' splice site recognition by U1 snRNP. This activity is critical for activation of the weak 5' splice site of msl-2 and for modulating the choice of splice site partner in Fas. Structural and functional similarities with the Saccharomyces cerevisiae splicing factor Nam8 suggest striking evolutionary conservation of a mechanism of pre-mRNA splicing regulation that controls biological processes as diverse as meiosis in yeast, dosage compensation in fruit flies, or programmed cell death in humans.