Chimeric forms of neuronal nitric oxide synthase identify different regions of the reductase domain that are essential for dimerization and activity

Olivia G. Hallmark, Yume T. Phung, Stephen M. Black

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Nitric oxide synthase (NOS) is the enzyme responsible for the conversion of L-arginine to L-citrulline and nitric oxide. Dimerization of the enzyme is an absolute requirement for catalytic activity. Each NOS monomer contains an N-terminal heme-binding domain and a C-terminal reductase domain. It is unclear how the reductase domain is involved in controlling dimerization and whether dimer formation alone controls enzyme activity. Our initial studies demonstrated that no dimerization or activity could be detected when the reductase domain of rat neuronal NOS (nNOS) was expressed either separately or in combination with the heme domain. To further evaluate the reductase domain, a set of expression plasmids was created by replacing the reductase domain of nNOS with other electron-transport proteins, thereby creating nNOS chimeric fusion proteins. The rat nNOS heme domain was linked with either cytochrome P450 reductase, adrenodoxin reductase, or the reductase domain from Bacillus megaterium cytochrome P450, BM-3. All the chimeric enzymes retained the ability to dimerize but were unable to metabolize L-arginine (<8% of wildtype activity levels), indicating that dimerization alone is insufficient to produce an active enzyme. Because the greatest regions of homology between electron-transport proteins are in the flavin mononucleotide (FMN), flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD), and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) binding regions, we produced truncation mutants within the nNOS reductase domain to investigate the role of these sequences in the ability of nNOS to dimerize and to metabolize L-arginine. The results demonstrated that the deletion of the final 56 amino acids or the NADPH-binding region had no effect on dimerization but produced an inactive enzyme. However, when the FAD-binding site (located between amino acids 920 and 1161) was deleted, both activity and dimerization were abolished. These results implicate sequences within the FAD-binding site as essential for nNOS dimerization but sequences within amino acids 1373 to 1429 as essential for activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-407
Number of pages11
JournalDNA and cell biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cell Biology


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