1. Resveratrol, a polyphenolic compound present in grape and wine, has beneficial effects against cancer and protective effects on the cardiovascular system. Resveratrol is sulphated, and the hepatic and duodenal sulphation might limit the bioavailability of this compound. The aim of this study was to see whether natural flavonoids present in wine, fruits and vegetables inhibit the sulphation of resveratrol in the human liver and duodenum. 2. In the liver, IC50 for the inhibition of resveratrol sulphation was 12+/-2 pM (quercetin), 1.0+/-0.04 microM (fisetin), 1.4+/-0.1 microM (myricetin), 2.2+/-0.1 microM (kaempferol) and 2.8+/-0.2 microM (apigenin). Similarly, in the duodenum, IC50 was 15+/-2 pM (quercetin), 1.3+/-0.1 microM (apigenin), 1.3+/-0.5 microM (fisetin), 2.3+/-0.1 microM (kaempferol) and 2.5+/-0.3 microM (myricetin). 3. The type of inhibition of quercetin on resveratrol sulphation was studied in three liver samples and was determined to be non-competitive and mixed in nature. Km (mean+/-SD; microM) was 0.23+/-0.07 (control), 0.40+/-0.08 (5 pM quercetin) and 0.56+/-0.09 (10 pM quercetin). Vmax (mean+/-SD; pmol min(-1) x mg(-1)) was 99+/-11 (control), 73+/-15 (5 pM quercetin) and 57 +/- 10 (10 pM quercetin). Kj and Kies estimates (mean+/-SD) were 3.7+/-1.8 pM and 12.1+/-1.7 pM respectively (p = 0.010). 4. Chrysin was a substrate for the sulphotransferase(s) and an assay was developed for measuring the chrysin sulphation rate in human liver. The enzyme followed Michaelis-Menten kinetics and Km and Vmax (mean+/-SD) measured in four livers were 0.29+/-0.07 microM and 43.1+/-1.9 pmol x min(-1) x mg(-1) respectively. 5. Catechin was neither an inhibitor of resveratrol sulphation nor a substrate of sulphotransferase. 6. These results are consistent with the view that many, but not all, flavonoids inhibit the hepatic and duodenal sulphation of resveratrol, and such inhibition might improve the bioavailability of this compound.