Epidemiological evidence suggests that moderate wine consumption and antioxidant-rich diets may protect against age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss among the elderly. Development of AMD and other retinal diseases, such as proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR), is associated with oxidative stress in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), a cell layer responsible for maintaining the health of the retina by providing structural and nutritional support. We hypothesize that resveratrol, a red wine polyphenol, may be responsible, in part, for the health benefits of moderate red wine consumption on retinal disease. To test this hypothesis, the antioxidant and antiproliferative effects of resveratrol were examined in a human RPE cell line (designated ARPE-19). Cell proliferation was determined using the bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) assay, intracellular oxidation was assessed by dichlorofluorescein fluorescence, and activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) cascade was measured by immunoblotting. Treatment with 50 and 100 micromol/L resveratrol significantly reduced proliferation of RPE cells by 10% and 25%, respectively (P<0.05). This reduction in proliferation was not associated with resveratrol-induced cytotoxicity. Resveratrol (100 micromol/L) inhibited basal and H2O2-induced intracellular oxidation and protected RPE cells from H2O2-induced cell death. The observed reduction in cell proliferation was associated with inhibition of mitogen activated protein kinase/ERK (MEK) and extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK 1/2) activities at concentrations of resveratrol as low as 5 micromol/L. These results suggest that resveratrol can reduce oxidative stress and hyperproliferation of the RPE.