Group I introns are ribozymes (catalytic RNAs) that excise themselves from RNA primary transcripts by catalyzing two successive transesterification reactions. These cis-splicing ribozymes can be converted into trans-splicing ribozymes, which can modify the sequence of a separate substrate RNA, both in vitro and in vivo. Previous work on trans-splicing ribozymes has mostly focused on the 16S rRNA group I intron ribozyme from Tetrahymena thermophila. Here, we test the trans-splicing potential of the tRNA(Ile) group I intron ribozyme from the bacterium Azoarcus. This ribozyme is only half the size of the Tetrahymena ribozyme and folds faster into its active conformation in vitro. Our results showed that in vitro, the Azoarcus and Tetrahymena ribozymes favored the same set of splice sites on a substrate RNA. Both ribozymes showed the same trans-splicing efficiency when containing their individually optimized 5' terminus. In contrast to the previously optimized 5'-terminal design of the Tetrahymena ribozyme, the Azoarcus ribozyme was most efficient with a trans-splicing design that resembled the secondary structure context of the natural cis-splicing Azoarcus ribozyme, which includes base-pairing between the substrate 5' portion and the ribozyme 3' exon. These results suggested preferred trans-splicing interactions for the Azoarcus ribozyme under near-physiological in vitro conditions. Despite the high activity in vitro, however, the splicing efficiency of the Azoarcus ribozyme in Escherichia coli cells was significantly below that of the Tetrahymena ribozyme.