The ability of 5-nitro-, 7-nitro-, and 5,7-dinitrobenzotetrazine-1,3-dioxides to generate nitric oxide (NO) and activate soluble guanylate cyclase was investigated. All of these compounds were found to be thiol-dependent NO-donors and guanylate cyclase activators. The maximal stimulatory effect of 5-nitro-, 7-nitro-, and 5,7-dinitrobenzotetrazine-1,3-dioxides was observed at 10 microM concentration and the activity increase was 4.5-, 15.0-, and 8.2-fold in the presence of 20 microM dithiothreitol and 11.3-, 31.6-, and 20.5-fold, respectively, in the presence of added glutathione (100 microM). The NO-dependent mechanism of benzotetrazine-1,3-dioxide nitroderivative-induced activation of soluble guanylate cyclase (in the presence of 100 microM glutathione) was confirmed by the inhibition (by 78%) of 7-nitrobenzotetrazine-1,3-dioxide (10 microM)-stimulated guanylate cyclase activity in the presence of the NO-scavenger 2-(4-carboxyphenyl)-4,4,5,5-tetramethylimidazoline-1-oxyl-3-oxide (Carboxy-PTIO, 50 microM) and by the inhibition with 1H-[1,2,4]oxadiazolo[4,3-a]quinoxalin-1-one (ODQ, 0.3 microM) of 5-nitro-, 7-nitro-, and 5,7-dinitrobenzotetrazine-1,3-dioxides (10 microM)-stimulated guanylate cyclase by 34, 69, and 39%, respectively. All compounds used inhibited ADP-induced aggregation of human platelets with IC50 of 10.0, 1.3, and 2.0 microM for 5-nitro-, 7-nitro-, and 5,7-dinitrobenzotetrazine-1,3-dioxides, respectively. A clearly defined correlation was established between the ability of the compounds to generate NO, activate soluble guanylate cyclase, and inhibit platelet aggregation.