A crystal structure has been solved for an analog of the r(ApU) ribodinucleotide, r(Aso2U), where a bridging non-ionic dimethylene sulfone linker replaces the phosphodiester linking group found in natural RNA. Crystals of the single-stranded state of r(Aso2U) were obtained from water at 50 degrees C. In these crystals, one hydrogen bond is formed between bases from different strands and base stacking occurs in intermolecular 'homo-A' and 'homo-U' stacks. Similar to typical oligoribonucleotides, the ribose rings adopt N-type conformations and dihedral angles chi are in the anti range. The all-trans rotamer of the CH2-SO2-CH2-CH2 bridge was found, which leads to a large adenine-uracil distance. Qualitative analysis of a NOESY spectrum of the Aso2U part in r(Uso2Cso2Aso2U) dissolved in a dimethylsulfoxide-D2O mixture indicates that the conformation observed in the crystal is also populated in solution. Comparison with the structure of r(Gso2C), which has been crystallized in the Watson-Crick paired state, shows that a rotation around zeta by +112 degrees leads from the observed, single-stranded state to a conformation that is compatible with formation of a duplex. A concerted trans/gauche flip of alpha and gamma then yields the standard conformer of A-type RNA helices. From the observed structure of r(Gso2C) and other oligonucleotides it is anticipated that this flip will also revert the ribose pucker from C2'-exo to C3'-endo.