NOSs (nitric oxide synthases) are flavohaem enzymes that function broadly in human health and disease. We are combining mutagenesis, crystallographic and rapid kinetic methods to understand their mechanism and regulation. The NOSs create a transient tetrahydrobiopterin radical within the enzyme to generate their free radical product (NO). Recent work is revealing how critically important this process is at all levels of catalysis. This article will synthesize four seemingly disparate but related aspects of NOS tetrahydrobiopterin radical formation: (i) how it enables productive O2 activation by providing an electron to the enzyme haem, (ii) what structural features help to regulate this electron transfer, (iii) how it enables NOS to synthesize NO from its diamagnetic substrate and (iv) how it allows NOS to release NO after each catalytic cycle instead of other nitorgen oxide-containing products.
- © 2004 The Biochemical Society