The heme-protein soluble guanylyl cyclase (sGC) is the intracellular receptor for nitric oxide (NO). sGC is a heterodimeric enzyme with alpha and beta subunits and contains a heme moiety essential for binding of NO and activation of the enzyme. Stimulation of sGC mediates physiologic responses including smooth muscle relaxation, inhibition of inflammation, and thrombosis. In pathophysiologic states, NO formation and bioavailability can be impaired by oxidative stress and that tolerance to NO donors develops with continuous use. Two classes of compounds have been developed that can directly activate sGC and increase cGMP formation in pathophysiologic conditions when NO formation and bioavailability are impaired or when NO tolerance has developed. In this report, we review current information on the pharmacology of heme-dependent stimulators and heme-independent activators of sGC in animal and in early clinical studies and the potential role these compounds may have in the management of cardiovascular disease.