1. Octimibate, 8-[(1,4,5-triphenyl-1H-imidazol-2-yl)oxy]octanoic acid, is reported to have antithrombotic properties. This is in addition to its antihyperlipidaemic effects which are due to inhibition of acylCoA:cholesterol acyltransferase (ACAT). The aim of this study was to investigate the mechanism of the antithrombotic effect of octimibate, and to determine whether the effects of octimibate are mediated through prostacyclin receptors. 2. In suspensions of washed (plasma-free) human platelets, octimibate is a potent inhibitor of aggregation; its IC50 is approx. 10 nM for inhibition of aggregation stimulated by several different agonists, including U46619 and ADP. The inhibitory effects of octimibate on aggregation are not competitive with the stimulatory agonist; the maximal response is suppressed but there is no obvious shift in potency of the agonist. In platelet-rich plasma, octimibate inhibits agonist-stimulated aggregation with an IC50 of approx. 200 nM. 3. Octimibate also inhibits agonist-stimulated rises in the cytosolic free calcium concentration, [Ca2+]i, in platelets. Both Ca2+ influx and release from intracellular stores are inhibited. The effects of octimibate on aggregation and [Ca2+]i are typical of agents that act via elevation of adenosine 3':5'-cyclic monophosphate (cyclic AMP). Similar effects are seen with forskolin, prostacyclin (PGl2) and iloprost (a stable PGl2 mimetic). 4. Octimibate increases cyclic AMP concentrations in platelets and increases the cyclic AMP-dependent protein kinase activity ratio. Octimibate stimulates adenylyl cyclase activity in human platelet membranes, with an EC50 of 200 nM. The maximal achievable activation of adenylyl cyclase by octimibate is 60% of that obtainable with iloprost. Octimibate has no effect on the cyclic GMP-inhibited phosphodiesterase (phosphodiesterase-ITI), which is the major cyclic AMP-degrading enzyme in human platelets.5. Octimibate inhibits, apparently competitively, the binding of [3H]-iloprost (a stable PGl2 mimetic) to platelet membranes; the estimated Ki is 150 nm. 6. The platelets of different species show considerable differences in the apparent potency of their inhibition of aggregation by octimibate; platelets from cynomolgus monkeys are 3 fold more sensitive than those from humans, while rat, cat and cow platelets are 50, 100, and 250 fold less sensitive than human platelets. The sensitivity of these different species to iloprost, however, varies over a range of only 10 fold with no obvious difference between primates and non-primates. 7. Octimibate appears to be a potent agonist (aggregation), or partial agonist (adenylyl cyclase), at prostacyclin receptors and is the first non-prostanoid agent of this type to be identified. The species differences in relative potency of octimibate and iloprost may reflect the existence of receptor subtypes.