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Volume 17 (2003), Issue 2-3, Pages 537-547

Nuclear magnetic resonance studies of ribonucleic acids

Oliver Ohlenschläger,1 Jens Wöhnert,2 Ramadurai Ramachandran,1 Christian Sich,1,3 and Matthias Görlach1

1Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie e.V., Beutenbergstr. 11, D-07745 Jena, Germany
2J. W. Goethe-Universität, Marie-Curie-Str. 6-8, D-06110 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
3Volkswagen AG, Brieffach 1617/0, D-38436 Wolfsburg, Germany

Copyright © 2003 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Ribonucleic acids (RNA) and RNA−protein complexes are essential components of biological information transfer, catalytic processes and are associated with regulatory functions. This broad range of biological functions is paralleled at the conformational level by a large number of non-canonical structural elements or sequences with non-standard backbone conformations, e.g., loops, bulges, pseudo-knots and complex tertiary folds. NMR spectroscopy has evolved to a powerful tool for the determination of ribonucleic acid structures of up to 20 kDa. Uniform or selective stable isotope labelling aids in solving assignment problems arising from the inherently limited chemical shift dispersion and overlap of resonances for larger nucleotide sequences. Recent developments of multi-dimensional heteronuclear NMR pulse sequences allow e.g., to directly observe the hydrogen bonding pattern of canonical Watson−Crick base pairs as well as of unusual types of base pairs, thereby opening up a fast access to secondary structure screening of RNA. Detailed conformational descriptions are obtained using conventional NOE and J coupling-derived data, nowadays supplemented by information from residual dipolar couplings. The latter method also provides a new means for the probing of dynamical features of ribonucleic acids.