Many naturally occurring inteins consist of two functionally independent domains, a protein-splicing domain and an endonuclease domain. In a previous study, a 168 amino acid residue mini-intein was generated by removal of the central endonuclease domain of the 440 residue Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtu) recA intein. In addition, directed evolution experiments identified a mutation, V67L, that improved the activity of the mini-intein significantly. A recent crystal structure shows that the loop connecting two beta-strands from the N-terminal and C-terminal intein subdomains of the mini-intein is disordered. The goals of the present study were to generate smaller mini-intein derivatives and to understand the basis for reversal of the splicing defect by the V67L mutation. Guided by the structural information, we generated a number of derivatives 135 to 152 residues in length, with V67 or L67. All of the new minimal inteins are functional in splicing. In vivo selection experiments for function showed that by removal of the loop region, 137 residues may be the lower limit for full protein-splicing activity. In addition, the activation effect of the V67L mutation was observed to be universal for mini-inteins longer than 137 residues. Structural and functional analyses indicate that the role of the mutation is in stabilization of the mini-intein core.