We investigated how pH affects rat brain neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) with regard to spin-state equilibrium and the thiolate ligand bond of the haem group, catalytic activity, and monomer ↔ dimer equilibrium. At neutral pH, nNOS containing 1 equiv. of (6R)-5,6,7,8-tetrahydro-l-biopterin (BH4) per dimer was mostly high-spin (λmax at 398 nm), whereas the BH4-free enzyme consisted of a mixture of the high-spin and two low-spin forms (λmax at 418 nm, and at 376 and 456 nm respectively). With BH4-free nNOS, an appreciable high-spin fraction was only observed between pH 7 and 8; at pH 6 and 9, the 418 and 376/456 nm low-spin forms predominated respectively. With nNOS containing 1 equiv. of BH4 per dimer, similar observations were made, but these involved only half of the enzyme; the other half, presumably the BH4-containing subunits, remained high-spin. Since the spin state in the BH4-free subunit appeared little affected by the state of the other subunit, we conclude that, in dimeric nNOS, the two haem groups function independently. Low pH destabilized thiolate binding and the interaction between NOS subunits, as indicated by CO-binding studies and gel electrophoresis respectively. Formation of l-citrulline was optimal between pH 7.0 and 7.5; the decrease in NOS activity at lower pH proved to be due to uncoupling of NADPH oxidation, resulting in increased formation of H2O2. At high pH strict coupling of l-arginine and NADPH oxidation was maintained, even in the absence of exogenous BH4. The possible pathophysiological implications of the uncoupling at low pH are discussed.

This content is only available as a PDF.