Bacillus anthracis lethal toxin (LT) produces symptoms of anthrax in mice and induces rapid lysis of macrophages derived from certain inbred strains. LT is comprised of a receptor binding component, protective antigen (PA), which delivers the enzymatic component, lethal factor (LF), into cells. We found that mouse macrophages were protected from toxin by the antitumor drug cis-diammineplatinum (II) dichloride (cisplatin). Cisplatin was shown to inhibit LT-mediated cleavage of cellular mitogen-activated protein kinases (MEKs) without inhibiting LF's in vitro proteolytic activity. Cisplatin-treated PA lost 100% of its ability to function in toxicity assays when paired with untreated LF, despite maintaining the ability to bind to cells. Cisplatin-treated PA was unable to form heptameric oligomers required for LF binding and translocation. The drug was shown to modify PA in a reversible noncovalent manner. Not surprisingly, cisplatin also blocked the actions of anthrax edema toxin and of LF-Pseudomonas aeruginosa exotoxin A fusion peptide (FP59), both of which require PA for translocation. Treatment of BALB/cJ mice or Fischer F344 rats with cisplatin at biologically relevant concentrations completely protected the animals from a coadministered lethal dose of LT. However, treatment with cisplatin 2 hours before or after animals received a lethal bolus of toxin did not protect them.