A series of N omega-nitroarginine (ArgNO2)- and phenylalanine-containing dipeptides and dipeptide esters were synthesized as potential selective inhibitors of neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS). All of the dipeptides and dipeptide esters are competitive inhibitors of nNOS, macrophage nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), and endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), except for the ones that contain D-ArgNO2 (8-10, 12, 13), which are uncompetitive inhibitors of iNOS but competitive inhibitors of nNOS and eNOS. None of the dipeptides or dipeptide esters tested (1, 2, 12, 13) exhibited time-dependent inhibition of any of the NOS isoforms, unlike N omega-nitro-L-arginine itself, which does, although it is reversible. The order of the amino acids in the dipeptide or dipeptide ester is important to selectivity, and the selectivity depends on the chirality of the amino acids. In the case of the corresponding benzyl esters (5 vs 6), both dipeptides favor iNOS over nNOS and eNOS inhibition. All of the dipeptide methyl esters containing a D-amino acid, however, exhibit an inhibitory preference for nNOS over iNOS and eNOS. The most impressive selectivities observed are 1800- and 800-fold for 12 and 13, respectively, in favor of nNOS over iNOS; unfortunately, the selectivities of these compounds for nNOS over eNOS are only 2.5 and 5.3, respectively.