We previously described a cis-acting RNA-cleaving deoxyribozyme known as pH3DZ1 that exhibits optimal catalytic activity at pH 3.0 (Zhongjie Liu, Shirley H. Mei, John D. Brennan, and Yingfu Li. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 125, 7539 (2003)). This DNA catalyst was made of a 99-nucleotide (nt) catalytic domain covalently linked to a 23-nt DNA–RNA chimeric substrate containing a single ribonucleotide as the cleavage site. In the present work, we conducted an extensive sequence examination of this deoxyribozyme via nucleotide truncation and reselection experiments, with a goal to minimize its size and identify the nucleotides that are crucial to its catalytic function. A trans-acting deoxyribozyme that can process an external substrate was also successfully designed. Stretches of 30 and 17 nucleotides from the 5′ and 3′ ends of the trans catalyst, respectively, were found to be completely dispensable; in contrast, few nucleotides could be deleted internally without producing a detrimental effect. The reselection experiment led to the discovery of 7 and 5 absolutely conserved nucleotides located at the 5′ and 3′ ends of the minimized catalyst, respectively, separated by a 31-nt element in which 14 highly conserved nucleotides were scattered among 17 variable nucleotides. The shortened deoxyribozyme and the original catalyst showed a similar pH profile with the optimal activity at pH 3; however, the minimized deoxyribozyme still exhibited strong catalytic activity at pH 2.5, while the full-length catalyst was barely active at this pH. Finally, it was found that this deoxyribozyme generated two cleavage fragments, one with 2′,3′-cyclic phosphate and the other with 5′-OH.Key words: DNA, deoxyribozyme, RNA cleavage, in vitro selection, catalysis.