Studies were performed to establish whether synthetic ajoene exhibited differential inhibitory activity against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1 (IIIB) and to clarify the mechanism of its antiviral effects. Our results demonstrate that ajoene protected acutely infected Molt-4 cells against HIV-1 and blocked further destruction of CD4 T-cells in vitro. Ajoene showed dose-dependent inhibition, with 50% cytotoxic concentration (CTC50%) and 50% effective inhibitory concentration (EIC50%) values of 1.88 microM and about 0.35 microM, respectively, when the test compound was added before or after HIV-1 infection and incubation carried out at 37 degrees C for 4 days. Ajoene proved relatively more active than dextran sulfate in blocking HIV-1 virus-cell attachment. The mode of anti-HIV action of ajoene can be ascribed to the inhibition of early events of viral replication, particularly virus adsorption.