BACKGROUND AND PURPOSEBy controlling intracellular cyclic nucleotide levels, phosphodiesterases (PDE) serve important functions within various signalling pathways. The PDE2 and PDE5 families are allosterically activated by their substrate cGMP via regulatory so-called GAF domains. Here, we set out to identify synthetic ligands for the GAF domains of PDE2 and PDE5.EXPERIMENTAL APPROACHUsing fluorophore-tagged, isolated GAF domains of PDE2 and PDE5, promising cGMP analogues were selected. Subsequently, the effects of these analogues on the enzymatic activity of PDE2 and PDE5 were analysed.KEY RESULTSThe PDE2 ligands identified, 5,6-DM-cBIMP and 5,6-DCl-cBIMP, caused pronounced, up to 40-fold increases of the cAMP- and cGMP-hydrolysing activities of PDE2. The ligand for the GAF domains of PDE5, 8-Br-cGMP, elicited a 20-fold GAF-dependent activation and moreover revealed a time-dependent increase in PDE5 activity that occurred independently of a GAF ligand. Although GAF-dependent PDE5 activation was fast at high ligand concentrations, it was slow at physiologically relevant cGMP concentrations; PDE5 reached its final catalytic rates at 1µM cGMP after approximately 10min.CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONSWe conclude that the delayed activation of PDE5 is required to shape biphasic, spike-like cGMP signals. Phosphorylation of PDE5 further enhances activity and conserves PDE5 activation, thereby enabling PDE5 to act as a molecular memory balancing cGMP responses to nitric oxide or natriuretic peptide signals.