A sulfated glycoglycerolipid, 1-O-(6'-sulfo-alpha-D-glucopyranosyl)-2,3-di-O-phytanyl- sn-glycerol (KN-208), a derivative of the polar lipid isolated from an archaebacterium, strongly inhibited DNA polymerase (pol) alpha and pol beta in vitro among 5 eukaryotic DNA polymerases (alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and epsilon). It also inhibited Escherichia coli DNA polymerase I Klenow fragment (E. coli pol I) and human immunodeficiency virus reverse transcriptase (HIV RT). The mode of inhibition of these polymerases was competitive with the DNA template primer and was non-competitive with the substrate dTTP. KN-208 inhibited pol beta most strongly, with a Ki value of 0.05 microM, 10-fold lower than that for pol alpha (0.5 microM) and 60- or 140-fold lower than that for HIV RT (3 microM) or for E. coli pol I (7 microM), respectively. The loss of sulfate on the 6'-position of glucopyranoside of this compound completely abrogated inhibition. However, the hydrophilic part of KN-208, glucose 6-sulfate alone, showed no inhibition. Other sulfated compounds containing different hydrophobic structures, such as dodecyl sulfate and cholesterol sulfate, exhibited a much weaker inhibition. Our results suggest that the whole molecular structure of KN-208 is required for inhibition. KN-208 was shown to be modestly cytotoxic for the human leukemic cell line K562. Interestingly, a subcytotoxic dose of KN-208 increased the sensitivity of the human leukemic cells to an alkylating agent, methyl methanesulfonate, while it did not potentiate the effects of ultraviolet light or of cisplatin.