Group II introns are self-splicing RNA molecules that are of considerable interest as ribozymes, mobile genetic elements and examples of folded RNA. Although these introns are among the most common ribozymes, little is known about the chemical and structural determinants for their reactivity. By using nucleotide analog interference mapping (NAIM), it has been possible to identify the nucleotide functional groups (Rp phosphoryls, 2'-hydroxyls, guanosine exocyclic amines, adenosine N7 and N6) that are most important for composing the catalytic core of the intron. The majority of interference effects occur in clusters located within the two catalytically essential Domains 1 and 5 (D1 and D5). Collectively, the NAIM results indicate that key tetraloop-receptor interactions display a specific chemical signature, that the epsilon-epsilon' interaction includes an elaborate array of additional features and that one of the most important core structures is an uncharacterized three-way junction in D1. By combining NAIM with site-directed mutagenesis, a new tertiary interaction, kappa-kappa', was identified between this region and the most catalytically important section of D5, adjacent to the AGC triad in stem 1. Together with the known zeta-zeta' interaction, kappa-kappa' anchors D5 firmly into the D1 scaffold, thereby presenting chemically essential D5 functionalities for participation in catalysis.