- BACKGROUND: SR family and SR-related proteins assemble on exonic splicing enhancer (ESE) sequences to promote both constitutive and regulated splicing. The SRm160 splicing coactivator, an SR-related nuclear matrix protein of 160 kDa, is important for the splicing of specific constitutive and ESE-dependent pre-mRNAs. RESULTS: In the present study, we show that SRm160 is required to promote pre-mRNA splicing mediated by a large population of functional ESE sequences within a randomized 18 nucleotide sequence. This suggests that it functions as a general coactivator by interacting with different SR family/SR-related proteins bound to different ESE sequences. Consistent with this, several SR family and SR-related proteins coimmunoprecipitated specifically with SRm160 in the presence of low salt. We used RNA interference (RNAi) in Caenorhabditis elegans to determine whether interactions between CeSRm160 and different CeSR family proteins are important in a whole-organism context. Previously we showed that RNAi of CeSRm160 and individual CeSR family genes other than CeSF2/ASF results in no obvious phenotype, which is indicative of gene redundancy. In the present study, we demonstrate that RNAi of CeSRm160 in combination with any CeSR family gene results in the production of unfertilized oocytes by the injected mother. CONCLUSIONS: The observation that simultaneous suppression of CeSRm160 and individual CeSR family proteins results in a distinct phenotype is indicative of critical functional interactions between these factors. Our results provide biochemical and genetic evidence indicating that interactions between SRm160 and multiple SR family proteins are important for both optimal splicing activity and for proper development.