Arg-120 is located near the mouth of the hydrophobic channel that forms the cyclooxygenase active site of prostaglandin endoperoxide H synthases (PGHSs)-1 and -2. Replacement of Arg-120 of ovine PGHS-1 with a glutamine increases the apparent Km of PGHS-1 for arachidonate by 1,000-fold (Bhattacharyya, D. K., Lecomte, M., Rieke, C. J., Garavito, R. M., and Smith, W. L. (1996) J. Biol. Chem. 271, 2179-2184). This and other evidence indicate that the guanido group of Arg-120 forms an ionic bond with the carboxylate group of arachidonate and that this interaction is an important contributor to the overall strength of arachidonate binding to PGHS-1. In contrast, we report here that R120Q human PGHS-2 (hPGHS-2) and native hPGHS-2 have very similar kinetic properties, but R120L hPGHS-2 catalyzes the oxygenation of arachidonate inefficiently. Our data indicate that the guanido group of Arg-120 of hPGHS-2 interacts with arachidonate through a hydrogen bond rather than an ionic bond and that this interaction is much less important for arachidonate binding to PGHS-2 than to PGHS-1. The Km values of PGHS-1 and -2 for arachidonate are the same, and all but one of the core residues of the active sites of the two isozymes are identical. Thus, the results of our studies of Arg-120 of PGHS-1 and -2 imply that interactions involved in the binding of arachidonate to PGHS-1 and -2 are quite different and that residues within the hydrophobic cyclooxygenase channel must contribute more significantly to arachidonate binding to PGHS-2 than to PGHS-1. As observed previously with R120Q PGHS-1, flurbiprofen was an ineffective inhibitor of R120Q hPGHS-2. PGHS-2-specific inhibitors including NS398, DuP-697, and SC58125 had IC50 values for the R120Q mutant that were up to 1,000-fold less than those observed for native hPGHS-2; thus, the positively charged guanido group of Arg-120 interferes with the binding of these compounds. NS398 did not cause time-dependent inhibition of R120Q hPGHS-2, whereas DuP-697 and SC58125 were time-dependent inhibitors. Thus, Arg-120 is important for the time-dependent inhibition of hPGHS-2 by NS398 but not by DuP-697 or SC58125.