Although arachidonic acid causes rabbit platelet aggregation and the release of granule contents in suspensions of washed platelets when used in concentrations of approximately 50–300 microM, higher concentrations (500 microM) cause neither aggregation nor release. Suspensions of platelets from rabbits wee exposed to arachidonic acid (250 microM) for 15 min, allowed to recover in the presence of PGE1 for 30 min, washed, and resuspended; in some experiments, the platelets were treated with aspirin before being exposed to arachidonic acid. Aggregation of platelets pretreated with arachidonic acid was inhibited in response to ADP; this effect was greater with the non-aspirin- treated platelets and persisted for at least 4 hr after resuspension. The association of 125I-fibrinogen with the platelets as a result of ADP stimulation was also inhibited. Aggregation and release of granule contents in response to collagen and low concentrations of thrombin was inhibited, but the inhibition could be overcome by higher concentrations. Thrombin induced further release of granule contents from platelets exposed to arachidonic acid without pretreatment with aspirin. Platelets that had been exposed to arachidonic acid, either with or without pretreatment with aspirin, did not aggregate or undergo further release upon stimulation with arachidonic acid after they were washed and resuspended. Inhibition of the lipoxygenase pathway with eicosatetraynoic acid (ETYA) or nordihydroguaiaretic acid (NDGA) did not affect the inhibition caused by arachidonic acid, so it is unlikely that a product of this pathway is responsible for the inhibition. Mixing experiments indicated that the pretreated platelets did not form a thromboxane-A2-like activity, and that they were unresponsive to aggregation and release induced by products formed from arachidonic acid. Experiments with 3H-arachidonic acid showed that after 45 min of incubation with platelets, only 1.1% of the 3H-arachidonic acid remained as free arachidonic acid in the platelets. Although cyclic-AMP was slightly increased 1 min after the addition of arachidonic acid, the cyclic-AMP concentration was the same as that of control platelets after the platelets were washed and resuspended, indicating that increased cyclic-AMP is not likely to be responsible for the persistent inhibitory effect. Thus, the inhibitory effect of pretreatment with arachidonic acid is a general effect on responses to a variety of aggregating agents that act through different mechanisms, and the inhibition is not related to thromboxane-A2 formation. The possibility of membrane perturbation resulting in the unavailability of receptors may explain the persistent inhibitory effect, but the responsible reactions have not been identified.