We have previously described a novel series of low molecular weight protein tyrosine kinase inhibitors which we named tyrphostins. The characteristic active pharmacophore of these compounds was the hydroxy-cis-benzylidenemalononitrile moiety. In this article we describe three novel groups of tyrphostins: (i) one group has the phenolic moiety of the cis-benzylidenemalononitrile replaced either with other substituted benzenes or with heteroaromatic rings, (ii) another is a series of conformationally constrained derivatives of hydroxy-cis-benzylidenemalononitriles in which the malononitrile moiety is fixed relative to the aromatic ring, and (iii) two groups of compounds in which the position trans to the benzenemalononitrile has been substituted by ketones and amides. Among the novel tyrphostins examined we found inhibitors which discriminate between the highly homologous EGF receptor kinase (HER1) and ErbB2/neu kinase (HER2). These findings may lead to selective tyrosine kinase blockers for the treatment of diseases in which ErbB2/neu is involved.