Murine macrophage nitric oxide synthase (NOS) was expressed in E. coli and purified in the presence (holoNOS) or absence (H4B-free NOS) of (6R)-tetrahydro-L-biopterin (H4B). Isolation of active enzyme required the coexpression of calmodulin. Recombinant holoNOS displayed similar spectral characteristics and activity as the enzyme isolated from murine macrophages. H4B-free NOS exhibited a Soret band at approximately 420 nm and, by analytical gel filtration, consisted of a mixture of monomers and dimers. H4B-free NOS catalyzed the oxidation of NG-hydroxy-L-arginine (NHA) with either hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) or NADPH and O2 as substrates. No product formation from arginine was observed under either condition. The amino acid products of NHA oxidation in both the H2O2 and NADPH/O2 reactions were determined to be citrulline and Ndelta-cyanoornithine (CN-orn). Nitrite and nitrate were also formed. Chemiluminescent analysis did not detect the formation of nitric oxide (*NO) in the NADPH/O2 reaction. The initial inorganic product of the NADPH/O2 reaction is proposed to be the nitroxyl anion (NO-) based on the formation of a ferrous nitrosyl complex using the heme domain of soluble guanylate cyclase as a trap, and the formation of a ferrous nitrosyl complex of H4B-free NOS during turnover of NHA and NADPH. NO- is unstable and, under the conditions of the reaction, is oxidized to nitrite and nitrate. At 25 degreesC, the H2O2-supported reaction had a specific activity of 120 +/- 14 nmol min-1 mg-1 and the NADPH-supported reaction had a specific activity of 31 +/- 6 nmol min-1 mg-1 with a KM,app for NHA of 129 +/- 9 microM. HoloNOS catalyzed the H2O2-supported reaction with a specific activity of 815 +/- 30 nmol min-1 mg-1 and the NADPH-dependent reaction to produce *NO and citrulline at 171 +/- 20 nmol min-1 mg-1 with a KM, app for NHA in the NADPH reaction of 36.9 +/- 0.3 microM.