The nitric-oxide synthases (NOSs) make nitric oxide and citrulline from l-arginine. How the bound cofactor (6R)-tetrahydrobiopterin (H4B) participates in Arg hydroxylation is a topic of interest. We demonstrated previously that H4B radical formation in the inducible NOS oxygenase domain (iNOSoxy) is kinetically coupled to the disappearance of a heme-dioxy intermediate and to Arg hydroxylation. Here we report single turnover studies that determine and compare the kinetics of these transitions in Arg hydroxylation reactions catalyzed by the oxygenase domains of endothelial and neuronal NOSs (eNOSoxy and nNOSoxy). There was a buildup of a heme-dioxy intermediate in eNOSoxy and nNOSoxy followed by a monophasic transition to ferric enzyme during the reaction. The rate of heme-dioxy decay matched the rates of H4B radical formation and Arg hydroxylation in both enzymes. The rates of H4B radical formation differed such that nNOSoxy (18 s(-1)) > iNOSoxy (11 s(-1)) > eNOSoxy (6 s(-1)), whereas the lifetimes of the resulting H4B radical followed an opposite rank order. 5MeH4B supported a three-fold faster radical formation and greater radical stability relative to H4B in both eNOSoxy and nNOSoxy. Our results indicate the following: (i) the three NOSs share a common mechanism, whereby H4B transfers an electron to the heme-dioxy intermediate. This step enables Arg hydroxylation and is rate-limiting for all subsequent steps in the hydroxylation reaction. (ii) A direct correlation exists between pterin radical stability and the speed of its formation in the three NOSs. (iii) Uncoupled NO synthesis often seen for eNOS at low H4B concentrations may be caused by the slow formation and poor stability of its H4B radical.