Agents that can suppress the activation of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) and activator protein-1 (AP-1) may be able to block tumorigenesis and inflammation. Oleandrin, a polyphenolic cardiac glycoside derived from the leaves of Nerium oleander, is a candidate NF-kappaB and AP-1 modulator. We investigated the effect of oleandrin on NF-kappaB activation induced by inflammatory agents. Oleandrin blocked tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-induced activation of NF-kappaB in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. This effect was mediated through inhibition of phosphorylation and degradation of IkappaBalpha, an inhibitor of NF-kappaB. A proprietary hot water extract of oleander (Anvirzel) also blocked TNF-induced NF-kappaB activation; subsequent fractionation of the extract revealed that this activity was attributable to oleandrin. The effects of oleandrin were not cell type specific, because it blocked TNF-induced NF-kappaB activation in a variety of cells. NF-kappaB-dependent reporter gene transcription activated by TNF was also suppressed by oleandrin. The TNF-induced NF-kappaB activation cascade involving TNF receptor 1/TNF receptor-associated death domain/TNF receptor-associated factor 2/NF-kappaB-inducing kinase/IkappaBalpha kinase was interrupted at the TNF receptor-associated factor 2 and NF-kappaB-inducing kinase sites by oleandrin, thus suppressing NF-kappaB reporter gene expression. Oleandrin blocked NF-kappaB activation induced by phorbol ester and lipopolysaccharide. Oleandrin also blocked AP-1 activation induced by TNF and other agents and inhibited the TNF-induced activation of c-Jun NH2-terminal kinase. Overall, our results indicate that oleandrin inhibits activation of NF-kappaB and AP-1 and their associated kinases. This may provide a molecular basis for the ability of oleandrin to suppress inflammation and perhaps tumorigenesis.