Nitric oxide reductase (NOR) catalyzes the generation of nitrous oxide (N2O) via the reductive coupling of two nitric oxide (NO) molecules at a heme/non-heme Fe center. We report herein on the structures of the reduced and ligand-bound forms of cytochrome c-dependent NOR (cNOR) from Pseudomonas aeruginosa at a resolution of 2.3–2.7 Å, to elucidate structure-function relationships in NOR, and compare them to those of cytochrome c oxidase (CCO) that is evolutionarily related to NOR. Comprehensive crystallographic refinement of the CO-bound form of cNOR suggested that a total of four atoms can be accommodated at the binuclear center. Consistent with this, binding of bulky acetaldoxime (CH3-CH=N-OH) to the binuclear center of cNOR was confirmed by the structural analysis. Active site reduction and ligand binding in cNOR induced only ∼0.5 Å increase in the heme/non-heme Fe distance, but no significant structural change in the protein. The highly localized structural change is consistent with the lack of proton-pumping activity in cNOR, because redox-coupled conformational changes are thought to be crucial for proton pumping in CCO. It also permits the rapid decomposition of cytotoxic NO in denitrification. In addition, the shorter heme/non-heme Fe distance even in the bulky ligand-bound form of cNOR (∼4.5 Å) than the heme/Cu distance in CCO (∼5 Å) suggests the ability of NOR to maintain two NO molecules within a short distance in the confined space of the active site, thereby facilitating N-N coupling to produce a hyponitrite intermediate for the generation of N2O. Proteins 2014; 82:1258–1271. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.