(R)-(-)-Elenic acid (R-2,4-dimethyl-22-(p-hydroxyphenyl)-docos-3(E)-enoic acid) (EA) is a DNA topoisomerase II inhibitor found in an Indonesian sponge, Plakinastrella sp. We found and report here that it is a potent inhibitor of calf DNA polymerase alpha (IC(50)=7.7 microM) and rat DNA polymerase beta (IC(50)=12.9 microM). EA did not bind to DNA directly. EA did not influence the activities of DNA polymerases such as plant DNA polymerases I and II and prokaryotic DNA polymerases such as Escherichia coli DNA polymerase I, or other DNA metabolic enzymes such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) reverse transcriptase, T7 RNA polymerase and bovine deoxyribonuclease I. Interestingly, EA was also an inhibitor of DNA topoisomerases I and II, although the enzymatic characteristics including modes of action, amino acid sequences and three-dimensional structures were markedly different from those of DNA polymerases. EA could prevent the growth of NUGC-3 cancer cells, and the LD(50) value was 22.5 microM. The cells were halted at G1 and G2/M phase in the cell cycle. From these results, the action mode of EA is discussed.