A series of compounds has been prepared by reaction of dicyandiamide with alkyl/arylsulfonyl halides as well as arylsulfonylisocyanates to locate a lead for obtaining weakly basic thrombin inhibitors with sulfonyldicyandiamide moieties as the S1 anchoring group. The detected lead was sulfanilyldicyandiamide (K-1 of 3 muM against thrombin, and 15 muM against trypsin), which has been further derivatized at the 4-amino group by incorporating arylsulfonylureido as well as amino acyl/dipeptidyl groups protected at the amino terminal moiety with benzyloxycarbonyl or tosylureido moieties. The best compound obtained (ts-D-Phe-Pro-sulfanilyl-dicyandiamide) showed inhibition constants of 9 nM against thrombin and 1400 nM against trypsin. pKa measurements showed that the new derivatives reported here do indeed possess a reduced basicity, with the pKa of the modified guanidine moieties in the range 7.9-8.3 pKa units. Molecular mechanics calculations showed that the preferred tautomeric form of these compounds is of the type ArSO2N = C(NH2) NH-CN, probably allowing for the formation of favorable interaction between this new anchoring group and the active site amino acid residue Asp 189, critical for substrate/inhibitor binding to this type of serine protease. Thus, the main finding of the present paper is that the sulfonyldicyandiamide group may constitute an interesting alternative for obtaining weakly basic, potent thrombin inhibitors, which bind with less affinity to trypsin.