Recently, we obtained x-ray crystallographic data showing the presence of a ZnS4 center in the structure of Escherichia coli-expressed bovine endothelial nitric-oxide synthase (eNOS) and rat neuronal nitric-oxide synthase (nNOS). The zinc atom is coordinated by two CXXXXC motifs, one motif being contributed by each NOS monomer (cysteine 326 through cysteine 331 in rat nNOS). Mutation of the nNOS cysteine 331 to alanine (C331A) results in the loss of NO· synthetic activity and also results in an inability to bind zinc efficiently. Although prolonged incubation of the C331A mutant of nNOS with high concentrations of L-arginine results in a catalytically active enzyme, zinc binding is not restored. In this study, we investigate the zinc stoichiometry in wild-type nNOS and eNOS, as well as in the C331A-mutated nNOS, using a chelation assay and electrothermal vaporization-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. The data reveal an approximate 2:1 stoichiometry of heme to zinc in (6R)-5,6,7,8-tetrahydro-L-biopterin-replete, wild-type nNOS and eNOS and show that the reactivated C331A mutant of nNOS has a limited ability to bind zinc. The present study substantiates that the zinc in NOS is structural rather than catalytic and is important for maintaining optimally functional, enzymatically active, constitutive NOSs.