The EPB41 (protein 4.1) genes epitomize the resourcefulness of the mammalian genome to encode a complex proteome from a small number of genes. By utilizing alternative transcriptional promoters and tissue-specific alternative pre-mRNA splicing, EPB41, EPB41L2, EPB41L3, and EPB41L1 encode a diverse array of structural adapter proteins. Comparative genomic and transcript analysis of these 140- to 240-kb genes indicates several unusual features: differential evolution of highly conserved exons encoding known functional domains interspersed with unique exons whose size and sequence variations contribute substantially to intergenic diversity; alternative first exons, most of which map far upstream of the coding regions; and complex tissue-specific alternative pre-mRNA splicing that facilitates synthesis of functionally different complements of 4.1 proteins in various cells. Understanding the splicing regulatory networks that control protein 4.1 expression will be critical to a full appreciation of the many roles of 4.1 proteins in normal cell biology and their proposed roles in human cancer. (C) 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.