Structural features of Internal Transcribed Spacer 2 (ITS2) important for the correct and efficient removal of this spacer from Saccharomyces cerevisiae pre-rRNA were identified by in vivo mutational analysis based upon phylogenetic comparison with its counterparts from four different yeast species. Compatibility between ITS2 structure and the S. cervisiae processing machinery was found to have been maintained over only a short evolutionary distance, in contrast to the situation for ITS1. Nevertheless, cis-acting elements required for correct and efficient processing are confined predominantly to those regions of the spacer that show the highest degree of evolutionary conservation. Mutation or deletion of each of these regions severely reduced production of mature 26 S, but not 17 S rRNA, mainly by impeding processing of the 29 S(B) precursor. In some eases, however, conversion of 29 S(A) into 29 S(B) pre-rRNA also appeared to be affected. Deletion of non-conserved segments, on the other hand, caused little or no disturbance in processing. Surprisingly some combinations of such individually neutral deletions had a severe negative effect on the removal of ITS2, suggesting a requirement for a higher-order structure of ITS2. Finally, even structural alterations of ITS2 that did not noticeably affect processing, significantly reduced the growth rate of cells that exclusively express the mutant rDNA units. We take this as further evidence for a direct role of ITS2 in the formation of fully functional 60 S ribosomal subunits.