Nitrates are the most widely prescribed drug category in ischemic heart disease, being able to prevent and to interrupt episodes of myocardial ischemia, alleviate anginal symptoms, exert favorable effects in acute myocardial infarction. Their vascular actions, on peripheral arteries and veins, as well as on coronary arteries, can explain most of these effects. However, nitrates also exhibit platelet-inhibiting properties, mediated by the same cellular mechanisms operating on smooth muscle cells, i.e., via stimulation of guanylate cyclase and subsequent increase in cytosolic levels of cyclic GMP. When added to platelet suspensions, nitrates inhibit platelet aggregation induced by most stimuli. These in vitro effects usually require high drug concentrations; there is evidence, however, that nitrates may inhibit platelet function also in vivo. Such evidence derives from a) ex vivo studies with platelet aggregometry; b) the appreciation of a synergism between nitrates and prostacyclin; c) the appreciation of a need, for nitrate actions in vivo, of sulfhydryl group donors, such as N-acetylcys-teine, and d) from studies on bleeding time. Antiplatelet effects of nitrates may be an explanation for the protection from cardiac death and reinfarc-tion inferred on the basis of a meta-analysis of many studies of nitrates in acute myocardial .