[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The p14 subunit of the essential splicing factor 3b (SF3b) can be cross-linked to the branch-point adenosine of pre-mRNA introns within the spliceosome. p14 stably interacts with the SF3b subunit SF3b155, which also binds the 65-kDa subunit of U2 auxiliary splicing factor (U2AF65). We combined biochemical and NMR techniques to study the conformation of p14 either alone or complexed with SF3b155 fragments, as well as an interaction network involving p14, SF3b155, U2AF65, and U2 snRNA/pre-mRNA. p14 comprises a canonical RNA recognition motif (RRM) with an additional C-terminal helix (alphaC) and a beta hairpin insertion. SF3b155 binds to the beta-sheet surface of p14, thereby occupying the canonical RNA-binding site of the p14 RRM. The minimal region of SF3b155 interacting with p14 (i.e., residues 381-424) consists of four alpha-helices, which are partially preformed in isolation. Helices alpha2 and alpha3 (residues 401-415) constitute the core p14-binding epitope. Regions of SF3b155 binding to p14 and U2AF65 are nonoverlapping. This allows for a simultaneous interaction of SF3b155 with both proteins, which may support the stable association of U2 snRNP with the pre-mRNA. p14-RNA interactions are modulated by SF3b155 and the RNA-binding site of the p14-SF3b155 complex involves the noncanonical beta hairpin insertion of the p14 RRM, consistent with the beta-sheet surface being occupied by the helical SF3b155 peptide and p14 helix alphaC. Our data suggest that p14 lacks inherent specificity for recognizing the branch point, but that some specificity may be achieved by scaffolding interactions involving other components of SF3b.