Despite the central role of group II introns in eukaryotic gene expression and their importance as biophysical and evolutionary model systems, group II intron tertiary structure is not well understood. In order to characterize the architectural organization of intron ai5gamma, we incorporated the photoreactive nucleotides s(4)U and s(6)dG at specific locations within the intron core and monitored the formation of cross-links in folded complexes. The resulting data reveal the locations for many of the most conserved, catalytically important regions of the intron (i.e., the J2/3 linker region, the IC1(i-ii) bulge in domain 1, the bulge of D5, and the 5'-splice site), showing that all of these elements are closely colocalized. In addition, we show by nucleotide analog interference mapping (NAIM) that a specific functional group in J2/3 plays a role in first-step catalysis, which is consistent with its apparent proximity to other first-step components. These results extend our understanding of active-site architecture during the first step of group II intron self-splicing and they provide a structural basis for spliceosomal comparison.