The significance of the intron-exon structure of genes is a mystery. As eukaryotic proteins are made up of modular functional domains, each exon was suspected to encode some form of module; however, the definition of a module remained vague. Comparison of pre-mRNA splice junctions with the three-dimensional architecture of its protein product from different eukaryotes revealed that the junctions were far less likely to occur inside the alpha-helices and beta-strands of proteins than within the more flexible linker regions ('turns' and 'loops') connecting them. The splice junctions were equally distributed in the different types of linkers and throughout the linker sequence, although a slight preference for the central region of the linker was observed. The avoidance of the alpha-helix and the beta-strand by splice junctions suggests the existence of a selection pressure against their disruption, perhaps underscoring the investment made by nature in building these intricate secondary structures. A corollary is that the helix and the strand are the smallest integral architectural units of a protein and represent the minimal modules in the evolution of protein structure. These results should find use in comparative genomics, designing of cloning strategies, and in the mutual verification of genome sequences with protein structures.