The transcription of HIV1 provirus is regulated by both cellular and viral factors. Various evidence suggests that Tat protein secreted by HIV1-infected cells may have additional action in the pathogenesis of AIDS because of its ability to also be taken up by non-infected cells. Curcumin [diferuloylmethane or 1,7-bis-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxyphenyl)-1,6-heptadiene-3,5-dione] is the yellow pigment in turmeric Curcuma longa (Linn). It exhibits a variety of pharmacological effects including antiinflammatory and antiretroviral activities. Here, we demonstrated that curcumin used at 10 to 100 nM inhibited Tat transactivation of HIV1-LTR lacZ by 70 to 80% in HeLa cells. In order to develop more efficient curcumin derivatives, we synthesized and tested in the same experimental system the inhibitory activity of reduced curcumin (C1), which lacks the spatial structure of curcumin; allyl-curcumin (C2), which possesses a condensed allyl derivative on curcumin that plays the role of metal chelator; and tocopheryl-curcumin (C3), which enhances the antioxidant activity of the molecule. Results obtained with C1, C2 and C3 curcumin derivatives showed a significant inhibition (70 to 85%) of Tat transactivation. Despite the fact that tocopheryl-curcumin (C3) failed to scavenge O2.-, this curcumin derivative exhibited the most activity; 70% inhibition was obtained at 1 nM, while only 35% inhibition was obtained with the curcumin.