Nitroxyl, produced in the bioactivation of the alcohol deterrent agent cyanamide, is a potent inhibitor of aldehyde dehydrogenase (AIDH); however, the mechanism of inhibition of AlDH by nitroxyl has not been described previously. Nitroxyl is also generated from Angeli's salt (Na2N2O3) at physiological pH, and, indeed, Angeli's salt inhibited yeast AlDH in a time- and concentration-dependent manner, with IC50 values under anaerobic conditions with and without NAD+ of 1.3 and 1.8 microM, respectively. Benzaldehyde, a substrate for AlDH, competitively blocked the inhibition of this enzyme by nitroxyl in the presence of NAD+, but not in its absence, in accord with the ordered mechanism of this reaction. The sulfhydryl reagents dithiothreitol (5 mM) and reduced glutathione (10 mM) completely blocked the inhibition of AlDH by Angeli's salt. These thiols were also able to partially restore activity to the nitroxyl-inhibited enzyme, the extent of reactivation being dependent on the pH at which the inactivation occurred. This pH dependency indicates the formation of two inhibited forms of the enzyme, with an irreversible form predominant at pH 7.5 and below, and a reversible form predominant at pH 8.5 and above. The reversible form of the inhibited enzyme is postulated to be an intra-subunit disulfide, while the irreversible form is postulated to be a sulfinamide. Both forms of the inhibited enzyme are derived via a common N-hydroxysulfenamide intermediate produced by the addition of nitroxyl to active site cysteine thiol(s).