We studied the effect of synthetic ajoene on simian immunodeficiency virus (SIVagm)-mediated cell fusion and subsequent virus-induced cytolysis. Our data indicate that this compound is a strong antifusion agent with a 50% syncytium inhibitory concentration (SIC50%) value of about 2.9 microM. We suggest that ajoene interacts with the cell-specific integrin molecules and sterically hinders the association between fusion (or other co-receptors) and the CD4-gp120 complex at the cell surface of SIV-infected cells. Although ajoene was maximally effective in suppressing syncytium formation during the early period (ie, up to 6 h) of the fusion process, when the compound was recurrently added to the co-cultures, the inhibitory effect was regained and further cell death was markedly delayed. This indicates that ajoene was also effective after the initial cell-to-cell contact stage. These data suggest that ajoene may be a promising approach for the treatment of SIV/human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections.