8-(p-Chlorophenylthio)-cGMP (8-pCPT-cGMP) and 8-bromo-cGMP were compared with respect to their chemical and biological properties in order to evaluate their potential as selective activators of cGMP-dependent protein kinase (cGMP-PK; EC 126.96.36.199) in intact human platelets. 8-pCPT-cGMP, 8-Br-cGMP and cGMP were shown to be potent and selective activators of purified bovine lung cGMP-PK and of cGMP-PK present in human platelet membranes when compared with the activation of cAMP-dependent protein kinase (cAMP-PK; EC 188.8.131.52). 8-pCPT-cGMP was not hydrolysed by the purified cGMP-stimulated phosphodiesterase (cGS-PDE), cGMP-inhibited phosphodiesterase (cGI-PDE) and Ca(2+)-calmodulin-dependent phosphodiesterase (CaM-PDE), whereas cGMP and, to a lesser extent, 8-Br-cGMP were hydrolysed by all three types of 3',5' cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterases (EC 184.108.40.206) examined. Also, 8-pCPT-cGMP was not hydrolysed by a human platelet homogenate which contains a high level of the cGMP-specific cGMP-binding phosphodiesterase (cGB-PDE). Additionally, 8-pCPT-cGMP did not activate the cGS-PDE or inhibit the cGI-PDE, whereas half-maximal inhibition of cGI-PDE occurred at 8 microM 8-Br-cGMP. The apparent lipophilicity of 8-pCPT-cGMP was higher than that of 8-Br-cGMP. Extracellular application of 8-pCPT-cGMP to intact human platelets reproduced the pattern of protein phosphorylation induced by sodium nitroprusside (SNP), a cGMP-elevating inhibitor of platelet activation. Quantitatively, 8-pCPT-cGMP was more effective than 8-Br-cGMP in inducing phosphorylation of the 46/50 kDa vasodilator-stimulated phosphoprotein, a major substrate of cGMP-PK in intact platelets. As observed with SNP, pretreatment of human platelets with 8-pCPT-cGMP prevented the aggregation induced by thrombin. The results suggest that 8-pCPT-cGMP is a very potent and selective activator of cGMP-PK in cell extracts and in intact human platelets and, in this respect, is superior to 8-Br-cGMP and other cGMP analogs used for intact cell studies. The data also suggest that inhibition of platelet activation in intact human platelets by nitrovasodilators is mediated by cGMP-PK.