Octimibate inhibited ADP- and collagen-induced platelet aggregation in human, rabbit and rat platelet-rich plasma. Washed human platelets treated with octimibate had elevated cyclic AMP (cAMP) levels and cAMP-dependent protein kinase activity. When whole platelets were incubated with radiolabeled phosphate, octimibate produced an increase in the phosphorylation of platelet proteins with relative molecular weights of 22, 26, 50 and 80 kilodaltons. This pattern of protein phosphorylation is identical to that observed when the platelets were treated with forskolin, phosphodiesterase inhibitors or other compounds that elevate platelet cAMP levels. Octimibate also inhibited the rise in intracellular Ca++ caused by thrombin, as measured using Fura-2-loaded platelets, which is consistent with octimibate's ability to elevate platelet cAMP levels. When isolated platelet plasma membranes were treated with octimibate, adenylate cyclase activity was stimulated, reaching maximal activation at 1 microM octimibate. (The maximal activation of adenylate cyclase observed with octimibate is 70-75% of that observed with 10 microM PGE1.) This stimulation of platelet adenylate cyclase activity was enhanced by GTP. Octimibate competed for radiolabeled prostaglandin E1 and lloprost binding to isolated platelet membranes at submicromolar concentrations, but did not compete with radiolabeled prostaglandin D2 binding. These studies suggest that octimibate inhibits platelet aggregation by activating platelet adenylate cyclase through stimulation of platelet prostacyclin receptors.