• dynamics;
  • labeling;
  • NMR spectroscopy;
  • RNA;
  • structure


Isotope labeling has revolutionized NMR studies of small nucleic acids, but to extend this technology to larger RNAs, site-specific labeling tools to expedite NMR structural and dynamics studies are required. Using enzymes from the pentose phosphate pathway, we coupled chemically synthesized uracil nucleobase with specifically 13C-labeled ribose to synthesize both UTP and CTP in nearly quantitative yields. This chemoenzymatic method affords a cost-effective preparation of labels that are unattainable by current methods. The methodology generates versatile 13C and 15N labeling patterns which, when employed with relaxation-optimized NMR spectroscopy, effectively mitigate problems of rapid relaxation that result in low resolution and sensitivity. The methodology is demonstrated with RNAs of various sizes, complexity, and function: the exon splicing silencer 3 (27 nt), iron responsive element (29 nt), Pro-tRNA (76 nt), and HIV-1 core encapsidation signal (155 nt).