Nitric oxide synthase (NOS) (EC 1.14.23) catalyzes the oxidation of L-arginine to citrulline and nitric oxide. The complex reaction carried out by NOS, which involves NADPH, O2, and enzyme-bound FAD, FMN, and tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4), has only recently begun to be elucidated. Herein we report the characterization of the pterin requirement of murine macrophage NOS. Although purified NOS activity was not dependent on BH4, activity was significantly enhanced by BH4 in a concentration-dependent fashion. NOS purified in the absence of added BH4 was found to contain substoichiometric concentrations of enzyme-bound pterin, where increased concentrations of bound pterin correlated with an increase in activity when assayed in the absence of exogenous BH4. However, NOS purified in the presence of BH4 followed by gel filtration exhibited a 1 mol of pterin:1 mol of NOS 130-kDa subunit stoichiometry and activity that was essentially independent of exogenous BH4. Experiments to probe a redox role for the pterin were carried out using pterin analogues. 6(R,S)-Methyltetrahydropterin was found to increase NOS activity in enzyme purified in the absence of BH4. However, the deaza analogue, 6(R,S)-methyl-5-deazatetrahydropterin, was not only incapable of supporting enzymatic turnover but also inhibited citrulline formation in a concentration-dependent manner. Overall, these results support a role for BH4 in the NOS reaction that involves stabilization of the enzyme and redox chemistry wherein a 1:1 stoichiometry between bound pterin and NOS subunit results in maximum activity.