The hairpin ribozyme catalyzes a reversible RNA cleavage reaction that participates in processing intermediates of viral satellite RNA replication in plants. A minimal hairpin ribozyme consists of two helix-loop-helix segments. These segments associate noncoaxially in the active folded structure in a way that brings catalytically important loop nucleotides into close proximity. The hairpin ribozyme in the satellite RNA of Tobacco Ringspot Virus assembles in the context of a four-way helical junction. Recent physical characterization of hairpin ribozyme structures using fluorescence resonance energy transfer demonstrated enhanced stability of the folded structure in the context of a four-way helical junction compared to minimal hairpin ribozyme variants. Analysis of the functional consequences of this modification of the helical junction has revealed two changes in the hairpin ribozyme kinetic mechanism. First, ribozymes with a four-way helical junction bind 3' cleavage products with much higher affinity than minimal hairpin ribozymes, evidence that tertiary interactions within the folded structure contribute to product binding energy. Second, the balance between ligation and cleavage shifts in favor of ligation. The enhanced ligation activity of hairpin ribozymes that contain a four-way helical junction supports the notion that tertiary structure stability is a major determinant of the hairpin ribozyme proficiency as a ligase and illustrates the link between RNA structure and biological function.