Aberrant expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) has been implicated in tumor promotion. Resveratrol, a phytoalexin present in grapes, was reported to inhibit multistage mouse skin carcinogenesis. In the present study, we found that topically applied resveratrol significantly inhibited COX-2 expression induced by the tumor promoter 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA). Resveratrol-suppressed phosphorylation and subsequent degradation of IkappaBalpha, thereby inhibiting activation of nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) in TPA-stimulated mouse skin. Pretreatment with resveratrol also suppressed TPA-induced phosphorylation of extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK) and p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase. Resveratrol blunted TPA-induced phosphorylation of p65 and its interaction with CBP/p300, rendering NF-kappaB transcriptionally inactive. To get further insights into the molecular basis of NF-kappaB inactivation by resveratrol, we examined the role of IkappaB kinase (IKK) in mediating TPA-induced activation of NF-kappaB and COX-2 expression. TPA treatment led to rapid induction of IKK activity in mouse skin, which was abolished either by resveratrol or an IKK inhibitor Bay 11-7082. Topical application of Bay 11-7082 also abrogated TPA-induced NF-kappaB activation and COX-2 expression, supporting the involvement of IKK in TPA-induced COX-2 expression. Taken together, the above findings suggest that resveratrol targets IKK in blocking TPA-induced NF-kappaB activation and COX-2 expression in mouse skin in vivo.