Group II introns are both catalytic RNAs (ribozymes) and mobile retroelements that were discovered almost 14 years ago. It has been suggested that eukaryotic mRNA introns might have originated from the group II introns present in the alphaproteobacterial progenitor of the mitochondria. Bacterial group II introns are of considerable interest not only because of their evolutionary significance, but also because they could potentially be used as tools for genetic manipulation in biotechnology and for gene therapy. This review summarizes what is known about the splicing mechanisms and mobility of bacterial group II introns, and describes the recent development of group II intron-based gene-targetting methods. Bacterial group II intron diversity, evolutionary relationships, and behaviour in bacteria are also discussed.