The antiproliferative effects of gossypol on human MCF-7 mammary cancer cells and cyclin D1-transfected HT-1060 human fibrosarcoma cells were investigated by cell cycle analysis and effects on the cell cycle regulatory proteins Rb and cyclin D1. Flow cytometry of MCF-7 cells at 24 h indicated that 10 microM gossypol inhibited DNA synthesis by producing a G1/S block. Western blot analysis using anti-human Rb antibodies and anti-human cyclin D1 antibodies in MCF-7 cells and high- and low-expression cyclin D1-transfected fibrosarcoma cells indicated that, after 6 h exposure, gossypol decreased the expression levels of these proteins in a dose-dependent manner. Gossypol also decreased the ratio of phosphorylated to unphosphorylated Rb protein in human mammary cancer and fibrosarcoma cell lines. Gossypol (10 microM) treated also decreased cyclin D1-associated kinase activity on histone H1 used as a substrate in MCF-7 cells. These results suggest that gossypol might suppress growth by modulating the expression of cell cycle regulatory proteins Rb and cyclin D1 and the phosphorylation of Rb protein.