The removal of introns from eukaryotic messenger RNA precursors shares mechanistic characteristics with the self-splicing of certain introns, prompting speculation that the catalytic reactions of nuclear pre-messenger RNA splicing are fundamentally RNA-based. The participation of five small nuclear RNAs (snRNAs) in splicing is now well documented. Genetic analysis in yeast has revealed the requirement, in addition, for several dozen proteins. Some of these are tightly bound to snRNAs to form small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs); such proteins may promote interactions between snRNAs or between an snRNA and the intron. Other, non-snRNP proteins appear to associate transiently with the spliceosome. Some of these factors, which include RNA-dependent adenosine triphosphatases, may promote the accurate recognition of introns.