Resveratrol (3,5,4'-trihydroxy-trans-stilbene) is a naturally occurring compound shown to inhibit carcinogen-induced preneoplastic lesion formation in mouse mammary organ culture and tumorigenesis in the two-stage mouse skin model. Cancer chemopreventive potential was also suggested in various assays reflective of the three major stages of carcinogenesis. Anti-initiation activity was indicated by its antioxidant and antimutagenic effects, inhibition of the hydroperoxidase function of cyclooxygenase (COX), and induction of phase II drug-metabolizing enzymes. Antipromotion activity was indicated by antiinflammatory effects, inhibition of production of arachidonic acid metabolites catalyzed by either COX-1 or COX-2, and chemical carcinogen-induced neoplastic transformation of mouse embryo fibroblasts. Antiprogression activity was demonstrated by its ability to induce human promyelocytic leukemia (HL-60) cell differentiation. Moreover, pretreatment of mouse skin with resveratrol significantly counteracted 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA)-induced oxidative stress, as evidenced by numerous biochemical responses. Resveratrol reduced the generation of hydrogen peroxide, and normalized levels of myeloperoxidase and oxidized-glutathione reductase activities. It also restored glutathione levels and superoxide dismutase activity. As judged by the reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, resveratrol selectively inhibited TPA-induced expression of c-fos and transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-beta 1), but did not affect other TPA-induced gene products including COX-1, COX-2, c-myc, c-jun, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. These data indicate that resveratrol may interfere with reactive oxidant pathways and/or modulate the expression of c-fos and TGF-beta 1 to inhibit tumorigenesis in mouse skin. As reported herein, in addition to the activities described above, resveratrol inhibited the de novo formation of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in mouse macrophages stimulated with lipopolysaccharide. This finding suggests an additional mechanism by which resveratrol may function as a cancer chemopreventive agent.