Deoxyhemoglobin reduces nitrite to nitric oxide (NO). In order to study the effect of the hemoglobin quaternary conformation on the nitrite reaction, we compared T-state deoxyhemoglobin with R-state deoxyhemoglobin produced by reacting hemoglobin with carboxypeptidase-A prior to deoxygenation. The nitrite reaction with deoxyhemoglobin was followed by chemiluminescence, electron paramagnetic resonance and visible spectroscopy. The initial steps in this reaction involve the binding of nitrite to deoxyhemoglobin followed by the formation of an electron delocalized metastable intermediate that retains potential NO bioactivity. This reaction is shown by visible spectroscopy to occur 5.6 times faster in the R-state than in the T-state. However, the dissociation of NO from the delocalized intermediate is shown to be facilitated by the T-quaternary conformation with a 9.6 fold increase in the rate constant. The preferred NO-release in the T-state, which has a higher affinity for the membrane, can result in the NO diffusing out of the RBC and being released to the vasculature at low partial pressures of oxygen. © 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.