The effects of intracellular cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) on L-type calcium current (lCa) and contraction of ventricular myocytes enzymatically isolated from guinea pig hearts were investigated to test the hypothesis that cGMP increases contractions along with ICa in these cells. ICa and contractions, elicited every 15 sec, were recorded simultaneously with a whole-cell voltage-clamp method and a video edge-detector, respectively. Cells were superfused with Tyrode's solution (22 degrees C); the pipette solution contained 120 mM potassium aspartate, 30 mM KCl, 4 mM ATP, 5 mM N-(2-hydroxyethyl)piperazine-N-(2-ethanesulfonic acid), 0.01 mM ethylene glycol bis(beta-aminoethyl ether)-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid and various concentrations of cGMP, which entered the cell interior through the patch electrode. In the presence of 3 nM isoproterenol (ISO) in the bath, ICa was increased 3.2-fold. ICa was further increased by 20% with 30 microM cGMP; cell contractions were also increased by 32%. When ICa was maximal in the presence of 30 nM ISO, cGMP no longer increased ICa or contractions, an indication that the effects of cGMP and ISO were additive. When ICa was increased maximally (4.3-fold) by 100 microM isobutylmethylxanthine, a nonselective phosphodiesterase inhibitor, application of 100 microM cGMP in the pipette decreased ICa by 53% and cell shortening by 64%. Cyclic GMP changed contraction in parallel with ICa in the presence of either ISO or isobutylmethylxanthine. 5'-GMP had no significant effect on ICa or contraction in the presence of ISO or isobutyl-methylxanthine. Cyclic GMP alone, at 30 microM, increased ICa by 25%; this effect on basal ICa was reversed by removal of cGMP from the pipette solution. We conclude that intracellular cGMP had two effects on ICa and contraction, namely, 1) an increase caused by an action on cGMP-inhibited phosphodiesterase and 2) a decrease attributed to activation of cGMP-dependent protein kinase.