Differences in a conformational equilibrium distinguish catalysis by the endothelial and neuronal nitric-oxide synthase flavoproteins

Robielyn P. Ilagan, Mauro Tiso, David W. Konas, Craig Hemann, Deborah Durra, Russ Hille, Dennis J. Stuehr

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46 Scopus citations


Nitric oxide (NO) is a physiological mediator synthesized by NO synthases (NOS). Despite their structural similarity, endothelial NOS (eNOS) has a 6-fold lower NO synthesis activity and 6-16-fold lower cytochrome c reductase activity than neuronal NOS (nNOS), implying significantly different electron transfer capacities. We utilized purified reductase domain constructs of either enzyme (bovine eNOSr and rat nNOSr) to investigate the following three mechanisms that may control their electron transfer: (i) the set point and control of a two-state conformational equilibrium of their FMN subdomains; (ii) the flavin midpoint reduction potentials; and (iii) the kinetics of NOSr-NADP+ interactions. Although eNOSr and nNOSr differed in their NADP(H) interaction and flavin thermodynamics, the differences were minor and unlikely to explain their distinct electron transfer activities. In contrast, calmodulin (CaM)-free eNOSr favored the FMN-shielded (electron-accepting) conformation over the FMN-deshielded (electron-donating) conformation to a much greater extent than did CaM-free nNOSr when the bound FMN cofactor was poised in each of its three possible oxidation states. NADPH binding only stabilized the FMN-shielded conformation of nNOSr, whereas CaM shifted both enzymes toward the FMN-deshielded conformation. Analysis of cytochrome c reduction rates measured within the first catalytic turnover revealed that the rate of conformational change to the FMN-deshielded state differed between eNOSr and nNOSr and was rate-limiting for either CaM-free enzyme. We conclude that the set point and regulation of the FMN conformational equilibrium differ markedly in eNOSr and nNOSr and can explain the lower electron transfer activity of eNOSr.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19603-19615
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number28
StatePublished - 11 Jul 2008


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