Extracts of Garcinia mangostana (Guttiferae) showing inhibitory effects against the growth of S. aureus NIHJ 209p were fractionated according to guidance obtained from bioassay and some of the components with activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) were characterized. One active isolate, alpha-mangostin, a xanthone derivative, had a minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) of 1.57-12.5 micrograms mL-1. Other related xanthones were also examined to determine their anti-MRSA activity. Rubraxanthone, which was isolated from Garcinia dioica and has a structure similar to that of alpha-mangostin, had the highest activity against staphylococcal strains (MIC = 0.31-1.25 micrograms mL-1), an activity which was greater than that of the antibiotic vancomycin (3.13-6.25 micrograms mL-1). The inhibitory effect against strains of MRSA of two of the compounds when used in conjunction with other antibiotics was also studied. The anti-MRSA activity of alpha-mangostin was clearly increased by the presence of vancomycin; this behaviour was not observed for rubraxanthone. The strong in-vitro antibacterial activity of xanthone derivatives against both methicillin-resistant and methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus suggests the compounds might find wide pharmaceutical use.