NMR measurements have been used to investigate rates of ring-flipping and the activation parameters for the trimethoxybenzyl ring of the antibacterial drug trimethoprim (TMP) bound to Lactobacillus casei dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) for a series of ternary complexes formed with analogues of the coenzyme NADPH. Rates were obtained at several temperatures from line shape analyses ((13)C-edited HSQC (1)H spectra) and transfer of magnetization measurements (zz-HSQC) on complexes containing 3'-O-[(13)C]trimethoprim. Examination of the structures of the complexes indicates that ring-flipping can only be achieved following major conformational changes and transient fluctuations of the protein and coenzyme structure around the trimethoxybenzyl ring. There is no simple correlation between rates of ring-flipping and binding constants. The presence of the coenzyme nicotinamide ring (in either its reduced or its oxidized forms) in the binding site close to the trimethoxybenzyl ring moiety is the major factor reducing the ring-flipping on coenzyme binding. Thus, the ternary complex with NADPH shows the largest reduction in the rate of ring-flipping (11 +/- 3 s(-)(1) at 298 K) as compared with the binary complex (793 +/- 80 s(-)(1) at 298 K). Complexes with NADPH analogues that either have no nicotinamide ring or are known to have their nicotinamide rings removed from the binding site show the smallest reductions. For the DHFR.TMP.NADP(+) complex where there are two conformations present, very different rates of ring-flipping were observed for the two forms. The activation parameters (DeltaH() and DeltaS()) for the ring-flipping in all the complexes are discussed in terms of the protein-ligand interactions and the possible constraints on the pathway through the transition state.