Acyclo-retinoic acid, a novel acyclic analogue of all-trans-retinoic acid, has been previously isolated as one of the in vitro oxidation products of lycopene. The effect of acyclo-retinoic acid on the growth of human prostate cancer cells was compared with those of the four retinoids: all-trans-retinoic acid, geranylgeranoic acid, 9-cis-retinoic acid and N-(4-hydroxyphenyl)retinamide. When prostate cancer cells, PC-3, DU 145 and LNCaP, were cultured in a retinoid-supplemented medium, acyclo-retinoic acid remarkably reduced the viability of the cells except for LNCaP. This effect was significantly higher than that of geranylgeranoic acid, all-trans-retinoic acid and 9-cis-retinoic acid, but was comparable to that of N-(4-hydroxyphenyl)retinamide. DNA fragmentations of nuclei in PC-3 and DU 145 cells treated with acyclo-retinoic acid were detected by in situ TUNEL assay. Furthermore, an apoptotic DNA ladder was observed in PC-3 cells. These results showed that acyclo-retinoic acid reduced cell viability by inducing apoptosis in human prostate cancer cells.