Recent data suggest that transitions between the relaxed (R) and tense (T) state of hemoglobin control the reduction of nitrite to nitric oxide (NO) by deoxyhemoglobin. This reaction may play a role in physiologic NO homeostasis and be a novel consideration for the development of the next generation of hemoglobin-based blood oxygen carriers (HBOCs, i.e. artificial blood substitutes). Herein we tested the effects of chemical stabilization of bovine hemoglobin in either the T- (THb) or R-state (RHb) on nitrite-reduction kinetics, NO-gas formation and ability to stimulate NO-dependent signaling. These studies were performed over a range of fractional saturations that is expected to mimic biological conditions. The initial rate for nitrite-reduction decreased in the following order RHb > bHb > THb, consistent with the hypothesis that the rate constant for nitrite reduction is faster with R-state Hb and slower with T-state Hb. Moreover, RHb produced more NO-gas and inhibited mitochondrial respiration more potently than both bHb and THb. Interestingly, at low oxygen fractional saturations, THb produced more NO and stimulated nitrite-dependent vasodilation more potently than bHb despite both derivatives having similar initial rates for nitrite reduction and a more negative reduction potential in THb versus bHb. These data suggest that cross-linking of bovine hemoglobin in the T-state conformation leads to a more effective coupling of nitrite reduction to NO-formation. Our results support the model of allosteric regulation of nitrite reduction by deoxyhemoglobin and show that cross-linking hemoglobins in distinct quaternary states can generate products with increased NO yields from nitrite reduction that could be harnessed to promote NO-signaling in vivo. © 2010 Published by Elsevier Inc.