The beneficial effects of moderate red wine consumption have been attributed, in part, to the presence of antioxidant components. Oxidant stress is an activating stimulus for the NF (nuclear factor)-KB/Rel family of transcription factors, which have binding sites in the promoter regions of many genes involved in inflammatory and immune responses. The effect of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated activation of NF-KB and the subsequent production of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and NO was determined in the macrophage cell line RAW 264.7. Unexpectedly, the wine polyphenolics quercetin and resveratrol and the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine (NAC) did not inhibit LPS-induced activation of the NF-KB complex p50/65, as determined by mobility shift. Quercetin inhibited LPS-induced p50/50. Northern blot analysis indicated that quercetin (0.1 and 0.2 mM) inhibited LPS-dependent production of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) mRNA and decreased NO release, as measured by the Griess reaction. This flavonoid had no effect on LPS-induced TNF-alpha mRNA, but decreased LPS-stimulated TNF-alpha release, as measured by ELISA. Resveratrol (0.05 and 0.1 mM) posttranscriptionally decreased LPS-induced nitrite release. It increased basal levels of TNF-alpha mRNA and protein and enhanced LPS-induced TNF-alpha mRNA and cytokine release. Our results do not support the view that wine antioxidants inhibit LPS-induced NF-KB activation but instead that they have a more selective action on genes activated by LPS.