Group II introns are catalytic RNA molecules that require divalent metal ions for folding, substrate binding, and chemical catalysis. Metal ion binding sites in the group II core have now been elucidated by monitoring the site-specific RNA hydrolysis patterns of bound ions such as Tb(3+) and Mg(2+). Major sites are localized near active site elements such as domain 5 and its surrounding tertiary interaction partners. Numerous sites are also observed at intron substructures that are involved in binding and potentially activating the splice sites. These results highlight the locations of specific metal ions that are likely to play a role in ribozyme catalysis.