Heteronuclear NMR spin relaxation studies of conformational dynamics are coming into increasing use to help understand the functions of ribozymes and other RNAs. Due to strong 13C-13C magnetic interactions within the ribose ring, however, these studies have thus far largely been limited to 13C and 15N resonances on the nucleotide base side chains. We report here the application of the alternate-site 13C isotopic labeling scheme, pioneered by LeMaster for relaxation studies of amino acid side chains, to nucleic acid systems. We have used different strains of E. coli to prepare mononucleotides containing 13C label in one of two patterns: Either C1′ or C2′ in addition to C4′, termed (1′/2′,4′) labeling, or nearly complete labeling at the C2′ and C4′ sites only, termed (2′,4′) labeling. These patterns provide isolated 13C-1H spin systems on the labeled carbon atoms and thus allow spin relaxation studies without interference from 13C-13C scalar or dipolar coupling. Using relaxation studies of AMP dissolved in glycerol at varying temperature to produce systems with correlation times characteristic of different size RNAs, we demonstrate the removal of errors due to 13C-13C interaction in T1 measurements of larger nucleic acids and in T1ρ measurements in RNA molecules. By extending the applicability of spin relaxation measurements to backbone ribose groups, this technology should greatly improve the flexibility and completeness of NMR analyses of conformational dynamics in RNA.