Digallic acid (gallic acid 5,6-dihydroxy-3-carboxyphenyl ester)  was found to be a potent inhibitor of the activities of the reverse transcriptases from murine leukemia virus (MLV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Under the reaction conditions specified for each of MLV and HIV reverse transcriptases, both enzymes were inhibited by approximately 90% in the presence of 0.5 micrograms/ml digallic acid. Under the same conditions, however, gallic acid had no effect on the reverse transcriptase activity. The mode of the inhibition by digallic acid was partially competitive with respect to the template.primer, (rA)n.(dT)12-18', and noncompetitive to the triphosphate substrate, dTTP. The Ki value of digallic acid for HIV-reverse transcriptase was determined to be 0.58 microM. Examination of several derivatives of digallic acid have shown that all three hydroxyl groups at the 3, 4, and 5 positions seem to be required for the inhibitory activity of these compounds. Besides reverse transcriptase, DNA polymerases alpha and beta were moderately inhibited by digallic acid, whereas DNA polymerase gamma, terminal deoxynucleotidyltransferase, and E. coli DNA polymerase I were virtually insensitive to inhibition by this compound.