In a continuing effort to unravel the structural basis for isoform-selective inhibition of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) by various inhibitors, we have determined the crystal structures of the nNOS and eNOS heme domain bound with two D-nitroarginine-containing dipeptide inhibitors, D-Lys-D-ArgNO2-NH2 and D-Phe-D-ArgNO2-NH 2. These two dipeptide inhibitors exhibit similar binding modes in the two constitutive NOS isozymes, which is consistent with the similar binding affinities for the two isoforms as determined by Ki measurements. The D-nitroarginine-containing dipeptide inhibitors are not distinguished by the amino acid difference between nNOS and eNOS (Asp 597 and Asn 368, respectively) which is key in controlling isoform selection for nNOS over eNOS observed for the L-nitroarginine-containing dipeptide inhibitors reported previously [Flinspach, M., et al. (2004) Nat. Struct. Mol. Biol. 11, 54-59]. The lack of a free α-amino group on the D-nitroarginine moiety makes the dipeptide inhibitor steer away from the amino acid binding pocket near the active site. This allows the inhibitor to extend into the solvent-accessible channel farther away from the active site, which enables the inhibitors to explore new isoform-specific enzyme-inhibitor interactions. This might be the structural basis for why these D-nitroarginine-containing inhibitors are selective for nNOS (or eNOS) over iNOS.
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