Coumarins and structurally related compounds have been recently shown to present anti-human immunodeficiency virus, type 1 (HIV-1) activity. Among them, the dietary furanocoumarin imperatorin is present in citrus fruits, in culinary herbs, and in some medicinal plants. In this study we report that imperatorin inhibits either vesicular stomatitis virus-pseudotyped or gp160-enveloped recombinant HIV-1 infection in several T cell lines and in HeLa cells. These recombinant viruses express luciferase as a marker of viral replication. Imperatorin did not inhibit the reverse transcription nor the integration steps in the viral cell cycle. Using several 5' long terminal repeat-HIV-1 constructs where critical response elements were either deleted or mutated, we found that the transcription factor Sp1 is critical for the inhibitory activity of imperatorin induced by both phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate and HIV-1 Tat. Moreover in transient transfections imperatorin specifically inhibited phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate-induced transcriptional activity of the Gal4-Sp1 fusion protein. Since Sp1 is also implicated in cell cycle progression we further studied the effect of imperatorin on cyclin D1 gene transcription and protein expression and in HeLa cell cycle progression. We found that imperatorin strongly inhibited cyclin D1 expression and arrested the cells at the G(1) phase of the cell cycle. These results highlight the potential of Sp1 transcription factor as a target for natural anti-HIV-1 compounds such as furanocoumarins that might have a potential therapeutic role in the management of AIDS.