The U-turn is a classical three-dimensional RNA folding motif first identified in the anticodon and T-loops of tRNAs. It also occurs frequently as a building block in other functional RNA structures in many different sequence and structural contexts. U-turns induce sharp changes in the direction of the RNA backbone and often conform to the 3-nt consensus sequence 5'-UNR-3' (N = any nucleotide, R = purine). The canonical U-turn motif is stabilized by a hydrogen bond between the N3 imino group of the U residue and the 3' phosphate group of the R residue as well as a hydrogen bond between the 2'-hydroxyl group of the uridine and the N7 nitrogen of the R residue. Here, we demonstrate that a protonated cytidine can functionally and structurally replace the uridine at the first position of the canonical U-turn motif in the apical loop of the neomycin riboswitch. Using NMR spectroscopy, we directly show that the N3 imino group of the protonated cytidine forms a hydrogen bond with the backbone phosphate 3' from the third nucleotide of the U-turn analogously to the imino group of the uridine in the canonical motif. In addition, we compare the stability of the hydrogen bonds in the mutant U-turn motif to the wild type and describe the NMR signature of the C+-phosphate interaction. Our results have implications for the prediction of RNA structural motifs and suggest simple approaches for the experimental identification of hydrogen bonds between protonated C-imino groups and the phosphate backbone.