The self-splicing sunY intron from bacteriophage T4 has the smallest conserved core secondary structure of any of the active group I introns. Here we show that several nonconserved regions can be deleted from this intron without complete loss of catalytic activity. The 3' stems P9, P9.1, and P9.2 can be deleted while retaining 5' cleaving activity. Two base-paired stems (P7.1 and P7.2) that are peculiar to the group IA introns can also be deleted; however, the activities of the resulting derivatives depend greatly on the choice of replacement sequences and their lengths. The smallest active derivative is less than 180 nucleotides long. These experiments help to define the minimum structural requirements for catalysis.