The cell type-specific, mutually-exclusive alternative splicing of the fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (FGFR2) pre-mRNA is tightly regulated. A sequence termed ISAR (intronic splicing activator and repressor) has been implicated as an important cis regulatory element in both activation of exon IIIb and repression of exon IIIc splicing in epithelial cells. In order to better understand how this single sequence could have dual roles, we transfected minigenes containing a series of 2-bp mutations in the 18 3'-most nucleotides of ISAR that we refer to as the ISAR core. Transfection of cells with dual-exon (IIIb and IIIc) minigenes revealed that mutation of terminal sequences of the core led to decreased exon IIIb inclusion and increased exon IIIc inclusion. Transfection of cells with single-exon IIIb minigenes and single-exon IIIc minigenes revealed that mutation of terminal sequences of the ISAR core led to decreased exon IIIb inclusion and increased exon IIIc inclusion, respectively. Nucleotides of the ISAR core responsible for exon IIIb activation appear to overlap very closely with those required for exon IIIc repression. We describe a model in which ISAR and a 5' intronic sequence known as IAS2 form a stem structure required for simultaneous exon IIIb activation and exon IIIc repression.