Nitric oxide (NO) activates corpus cavernosum smooth muscle soluble guanylate cyclase (sGC) and increases the synthesis of cGMP that results in smooth muscle relaxation and ultimately, penile erection. To characterize sGC and define the potential synergy between NO and the allosteric activator YC-1 in corpus cavernosum, rat sGC was activated by either sodium nitroprusside (SNP) or YC-1, and YC-1 potentiated the effects of SNP with a 200-fold activation of sGC. Both SNP and YC-1 decreased the Km and increased the Vmax. ODQ significantly inhibited sGC activated by SNP with IC50 of 0.5 nM, but did not affect the sGC activated by YC-1 as well as basal sGC activity. SNP and YC-1 synergistically increased intracellular cGMP levels in rabbit corpus cavernosum smooth muscle cell cultures. YC-1 significantly relaxed rabbit cavernosum tissue strips in organ baths with an EC50 of 8.4 microM. In the presence of L-nitroarginine methyl ester to block endogenous NO production, co-administration of SNP shifted the dose response of YC-1 to the left, showing the synergism of SNP and YC-1 in tissue strips. In view of the clinical efficacy of phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors, activation of sGC may provide an alternative means for enhancing the activity of neurally derived NO during sexual stimulation in the corpus cavernosum, representing a novel approach for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.