Resveratrol (trans-3,4′,5-trihydroxystilbene), a polyphenolic phytoalexin found in grapes, nuts, many other fruits, and red wine, is a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventive properties. The mechanism(s) by which resveratrol imparts cancer chemopreventive effects has not been clearly defined. Earlier, we have shown that resveratrol treatment results in an induction of the cyclin kinase inhibitor WAF1/CIP1/p21 which, by inhibiting cyclin (E, D1, and D2) and cyclin-dependent kinases (cdk2, cdk4, and cdk6), results in a G0/G1-phase arrest followed by apoptosis of A431 human epidermoid carcinoma cells (Ahmad et al., Clin. Cancer Res. 7, 1466-1473, 2001). Retinoblastoma (pRb) and the E2F family of transcription factors are important proteins, which regulate the progression of the cell cycle at and near the G1→S phase transition. Here we provide evidence for the involvement of the pRb-E2F/DP pathway as an important contributor of resveratrol-mediated cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Immunoblot analysis demonstrated that resveratrol treatment of A431 cells results in a dose- as well as time-dependent decrease in the hyperphosphorylated form of pRb with a relative increase in hypophosphorylated pRb. This response was accompanied by downregulation of protein expression of all five E2F (1-5) family members of transcription factors studied and their heterodimeric partners DP1 and DP2. This suggests that resveratrol causes a downregulation of hyperphosphorylated pRb protein with a relative increase in hypophosphorylated pRb that, in turn, compromises with the availability of free E2F. We suggest that this series of events results in a stoppage of the cell cycle progression at the G1→S phase transition thereby leading to a G0/G1 arrest and subsequent apoptotic cell death. To our knowledge, this is the first study showing the involvement of the pRb - E2F/DP pathway as a mechanism of the cancer-chemopreventive effects of resveratrol. © 2001 Academic Press.