The thermodynamics of cofactor binding to the isolated reductase domain (Red) of nNOS and its mutants have been studied by isothermal titration calorimetry. The NADP(+) and 2',5'-ADP binding stoichiometry to Red were both 1:1, consistent with a one-site kinetic model instead of a two-site model. The binding constant (K(D) = 71 nM) and the large heat capacity change (ΔC(p) = -440 cal mol(-1) K(-1)) for 2',5'-ADP were remarkably different from those for NADP(+) (1.7 μM and -140 cal mol(-1) K(-1), respectively). These results indicate that the nicotinamide moiety as well as the adenosine moiety has an important role in binding to nNOS. They also suggest that the thermodynamics of the conformational change in Red caused by cofactor binding are significantly different from the conformational changes that occur in cytochrome c reductase, in which the nicotinamide moiety of the cofactor is not essential for binding. Analysis of the deletion mutant of the autoinhibitory helix (RedΔ40) revealed that the deletion resulted in a decrease in the binding affinity of 2',5'-ADP with more unfavorable enthalpy gain. In the case of RedCaM, which contains a calmodulin (CaM) binding site, the presence of Ca(2+)/CaM caused a 6.7-fold increase in the binding affinity for 2',5'-ADP that was mostly due to the favorable entropy change. These results are consistent with a model in which Ca(2+)/CaM induces a conformational change in NOS to a flexible "open" form from a "closed" form that locked by cofactor binding, and this change facilitates the electron transfer required for catalysis.