Cut and paste RNA for nuclear magnetic resonance, paramagnetic resonance enhancement, and electron paramagnetic resonance structural studies

Methods Enzymol. 2015;565:537-62. doi: 10.1016/bs.mie.2015.05.029. Epub 2015 Jun 22.


RNA is a crucial regulator involved in most molecular processes of life. Understanding its function at the molecular level requires high-resolution structural information. However, the dynamic nature of RNA complicates structure determination because crystallization is often not possible or can result in crystal-packing artifacts resulting in nonnative structures. To study RNA and its complexes in solution, we described an approach in which large multi-domain RNA or protein-RNA complex structures can be determined at high resolution from isolated domains determined by nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, and then constructing the entire macromolecular structure using electron paramagnetic resonance (EPR) long-range distance constraints. Every step in this structure determination approach requires different types of isotope or spin-labeled RNAs. Here, we present a simple modular RNA cut and paste approach including protocols to generate (1) small isotopically labeled RNAs (<10 nucleotides) for NMR structural studies, which cannot be obtained by standard protocols, (2) large segmentally isotope and/or spin-labeled RNAs for diamagnetic NMR and paramagnetic relaxation enhancement NMR, and (3) large spin-labeled RNAs for pulse EPR spectroscopy.

Keywords: Electron paramagnetic resonance; Multiple segmental isotope labeling of RNA; Nucleic magnetic resonance; Paramagnetic relaxation enhancement; Protein–RNA interactions; RNA dynamics; RNA ligation; RNA solution structure determination; Site-directed spin-labeling of RNA; Small isotope-labeled RNAs for NMR; Spin-labeling of RNA.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy / methods*
  • Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Biomolecular / methods*
  • RNA / chemistry*


  • RNA