The outline of a universal cell-free translation system capable of site-specific insertion of any types of labeled amino acids is presented. The system could be an invaluable tool for NMR spectroscopy by making the exclusive and exact labeling of the segments of interest possible. Although the development of such a system requires considerable efforts and can not be expected to be available in the next few years, we argue that recent findings concerning the translation apparatus provide clues for overcoming the major difficulties that might arise. We propose a genetic code and a reactor expected to fulfill the specific requirements. Importantly, incomplete systems could also be useful to study selected functional aspects of a number of proteins, examples of which are also given. BioEssays 30:772–780, 2008. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.