In rat neuronal nitric oxide synthase, Phe1395 is positioned over the FAD isoalloxazine ring. This is replaced by Trp676 in human cytochrome P450 reductase, a tryptophan in related diflavin reductases (e.g. methionine synthase reductase and novel reductase 1), and tyrosine in plant ferredoxin-NADP(+) reductase. Trp676 in human cytochrome P450 reductase is conformationally mobile, and plays a key role in enzyme reduction. Mutagenesis of Trp676 to alanine results in a functional NADH-dependent reductase. Herein, we describe studies of rat neuronal nitric oxide synthase FAD domains, in which the aromatic shielding residue Phe1395 is replaced by tryptophan, alanine and serine. In steady-state assays the F1395A and F1395S domains have a greater preference for NADH compared with F1395W and wild-type. Stopped-flow studies indicate flavin reduction by NADH is significantly faster with F1395S and F1395A domains, suggesting that this contributes to altered preference in coenzyme specificity. Unlike cytochrome P450 reductase, the switch in coenzyme specificity is not attributed to differential binding of NADPH and NADH, but probably results from improved geometry for hydride transfer in the F1395S- and F1395A-NADH complexes. Potentiometry indicates that the substitutions do not significantly perturb thermodynamic properties of the FAD, although considerable changes in electronic absorption properties are observed in oxidized F1395A and F1395S, consistent with changes in hydrophobicity of the flavin environment. In wild-type and F1395W FAD domains, prolonged incubation with NADPH results in development of the neutral blue semiquinone FAD species. This reaction is suppressed in the mutant FAD domains lacking the shielding aromatic residue.
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