[99%, 1-13C]- and [90%, 2-13C]3-deoxy-D-manno-octulosonic acid (KDO) were prepared enzymatically and used to determine the anomeric specificity of the CTP:CMP-3-deoxy-D-manno-octulosonate cytidylyl transferase (CMP-KDO synthetase) by 13C NMR spectroscopy. Addition of CMP-KDO synthetase to reaction mixtures containing either 1-13C- or 2-13C-labeled KDO resulted in rapid CMP-KDO formation which was accompanied by a substantial decrease in the 13C-enriched resonances of the beta-pyranose form of KDO relative to the resonances of other KDO species in solution, demonstrating that the beta-pyranose is the preferred substrate. Concomitant with the production of CMP-KDO was the appearance of peaks at 174.3 and 101.4 ppm when [1-13C]- and [2-13C]KDO, respectively, were used as substrates. The correspondence of these resonances to the enriched carbons in CMP-KDO was confirmed by the expected 3-bond (3JP,C-1 = 6.9 Hz) and 2-bond coupling (2JP,C-2 = 8.3 Hz) between the labeled carbons and the ketosidically linked phosphoryl group. A large coupling (3J = 5.7 Hz) was observed in proton-coupled spectra of CMP-[1-13C]KDO between carbon 1 and the axial proton at carbon 3 of KDO. The magnitude of this coupling constant supports a diaxial relationship between these two groups and, along with chemical shift data, indicates that KDO retains the beta-configuration when linked in CMP-KDO.