Background: Sm-like proteins are highly conserved proteins that form the core of the U6 ribonucleoprotein and function in several mRNA metabolism processes, including pre-mRNA splicing. Despite their wide occurrence in all eukaryotes, little is known about the roles of Sm-like proteins in the regulation of splicing.Results: Here, through comprehensive transcriptome analyses, we demonstrate that depletion of the Arabidopsis supersensitive to abscisic acid and drought 1 gene (SAD1), which encodes Sm-like protein 5 (LSm5), promotes an inaccurate selection of splice sites that leads to a genome-wide increase in alternative splicing. In contrast, overexpression of SAD1 strengthens the precision of splice-site recognition and globally inhibits alternative splicing. Further, SAD1 modulates the splicing of stress-responsive genes, particularly under salt-stress conditions. Finally, we find that overexpression of SAD1 in Arabidopsis improves salt tolerance in transgenic plants, which correlates with an increase in splicing accuracy and efficiency for stress-responsive genes.Conclusions: We conclude that SAD1 dynamically controls splicing efficiency and splice-site recognition in Arabidopsis, and propose that this may contribute to SAD1-mediated stress tolerance through the metabolism of transcripts expressed from stress-responsive genes. Our study not only provides novel insights into the function of Sm-like proteins in splicing, but also uncovers new means to improve splicing efficiency and to enhance stress tolerance in a higher eukaryote. 2014 Cui et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.