Resveratrol, a natural polyphenolic phytoalexine present in grapes and wines, has been reported to exert a variety of important pharmacological effects. We investigated the effects of resveratrol on the growth and polyamine metabolism of CaCo-2 human colon cancer cells. Treatment of the CaCo-2 cells with 25 microM resveratrol caused a 70% growth inhibition. The cells accumulated at the S/G2 phase transition of the cell cycle. No signs of cytotoxicity or apoptosis were detected. Resveratrol caused a significant decrease of ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) activity, a key enzyme of polyamine biosynthesis, which is enhanced in cancer growth. ODC inhibition resulted in the reduction of the intracellular putrescine content, indicating that polyamines might represent one of several targets involved in the anti-proliferative effects of resveratrol.