The second messenger cGMP is a major intracellular mediator of the vaso-active agents nitric oxide and natriuretic peptides. The principal targets of cGMP are (i) phosphodiesterases, resulting in interference with the cAMP-signalling pathway, (ii) cGMP-gated cation channels, and (iii) cGMP-dependent protein kinases (cGKs). Only two mammalian isotypes of cGK have been described so far: type I cGK, consisting of an alpha and a beta isoform, presumably splice variants of a single gene, and identified as the most prominent cGK isotype in the cardio-vascular system; and type II cGK, expressed mainly in the intestine, the kidney and the brain. High levels of cGK I are found in vascular smooth muscle cells, endothelial cells and platelets. In these cells, cGK I is thought to counteract the increase in contraction provoked by Ca-mobilizing agonists, to reduce endothelial permeability and to inhibit platelet aggregation, respectively. Relatively low levels of cGK I are found in cardiomyocytes. In this cell type, cGK is implicated in the negative inotropic effect of cGMP, presumably through modulation of Ca channels and by diminishing the Ca-sensitivity of contractile proteins.