In the course of searching for BACE1 (beta-secretase) inhibitors from natural products, the ethyl acetate soluble fraction of green tea, which was suspected to be rich in catechin content, showed potent inhibitory activity. (-)-Epigallocatechin gallate, (-)-epicatechin gallate, and (-)-gallocatechin gallate were isolated with IC(50) values of 1.6 x 10(-6), 4.5 x 10(-6), and 1.8 x 10(-6) M, respectively. Seven additional authentic catechins were tested for a fundamental structure-activity relationship. (-)-Catechin gallate, (-)-gallocatechin, and (-)-epigallocatechin significantly inhibited BACE1 activity with IC(50) values of 6.0 x 10(-6), 2.5 x 10(-6), and 2.4 x 10(-6) M, respectively. However, (+)-catechin, (-)-catechin, (+)-epicatechin, and (-)-epicatechin exhibited about ten times less inhibitory activity. The stronger activity seemed to be related to the pyrogallol moiety on C-2 and/or C-3 of catechin skeleton, while the stereochemistry of C-2 and C-3 did not have an effect on the inhibitory activity. The active catechins inhibited BACE1 activity in a non-competitive manner with a substrate in Dixon plots.