Propolis, a resinous bee product, has been shown to inhibit the growth of oral microorganisms and the activity of bacterium-derived glucosyltransferases (GTFs). Several compounds, mainly polyphenolics, have been identified in this natural product. The present study evaluated the effects of distinct chemical groups found in propolis on the activity of GTF enzymes in solution and on the surface of saliva-coated hydroxyapatite (sHA) beads. Thirty compounds, including flavonoids, cinnamic acid derivatives, and terpenoids, were tested for the ability to inhibit GTFs B, C, and D from Streptococcus mutans and GTF from S. sanguinis (GTF Ss). Flavones and flavonols were potent inhibitors of GTF activity in solution; lesser effects were noted on insolubilized enzymes. Apigenin, a 4',5,7-trihydroxyflavone, was the most effective inhibitor of GTFs, both in solution (90.5 to 95% inhibition at a concentration of 135 microg/ml) and on the surface of sHA beads (30 to 60% at 135 microg/ml). Antibacterial activity was determined by using MICs, minimum bactericidal concentrations (MBCs), and time-kill studies. Flavanones and some dihydroflavonols, as well as the sesquiterpene tt-farnesol, inhibited the growth of S. mutans and S. sobrinus; tt-farnesol was the most effective antibacterial compound (MICs of 14 to 28 microg/ml and MBCs of 56 to 112 microg/ml). tt-Farnesol (56 to 112 microg/ml) produced a 3-log-fold reduction in the bacterial population after 4 h of incubation. Cinnamic acid derivatives had negligible biological activities. Several of the compounds identified in propolis inhibit GTF activities and bacterial growth. Apigenin is a novel and potent inhibitor of GTF activity, and tt-farnesol was found to be an effective antibacterial agent.