Cisplatin resistance, induced in murine fibrosarcoma cells (SSK) in vitro or in vivo by low-dose irradiation, can be overcome by activation of the cyclic GMP(cGMP)-dependent transduction pathway. This is mediated either by stimulating cGMP formation with sodium nitroprusside or by replacing cGMP with a selective activator of the cGMP-dependent protein kinase, 8-bromo-cGMP. The cyclic AMP-dependent transduction pathway is not involved in cisplatin resistance. Instead, activation of cAMP sensitises both parental and resistant SSK cells equally to the action of cisplatin. There is a 1.8 to 2.5-fold increase in drug toxicity, depending on the activating agent. Enhancement of cisplatin sensitivity is induced by specific inhibition of cAMP hydrolysis, increase in cAMP formation or by increasing the activation potential to cAMP-dependent protein kinase by specific cAMP analogues. Cells that have lost cisplatin resistance respond to cGMP- or cAMP-elevating agents in the same way as the parental SSK cells. The radiation sensitivity is unchanged in all cell lines, even after activation of cAMP or cGMP. These results suggest that specific DNA repair pathways are altered by radiation but affected only in cisplatin damage repair, which is regulated by cGMP. Although there is ample cooperativity and interaction between the cAMP- and the cGMP-dependent transduction pathways, specific substrate binding by cGMP appears to play an important role in radiation-induced cisplatin resistance.