Gallates (gallic acid esters) belong to the class of phenolic compounds, which are abundant in red wine. In this study, we show that gallates can inhibit cytokine-induced activation of nuclear factor kappaB (NF-kappaB) and thereby reduce expression of endothelial-leukocyte adhesion molecules in cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs). Pretreatment of HUVECs with ethyl gallate (3 to 10 micromol/L) significantly suppressed interleukin-1alpha (IL-1alpha)- or tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha)- induced mRNA and cell-surface expression of vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (VCAM-1), intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1), and E-selectin, which was associated with reduced adhesion of leukocytes to HUVECs. Gel shift assays with the NF-kappaB consensus sequence showed the decreased densities of the shifted bands in gallate-treated HUVECs. Furthermore, gallate pretreatment inhibited cytokine-induced transcription of a fusion gene, which consisted of 4 repeats of the NF-kappaB consensus sequence and the luciferase reporter gene. Immunoblot analysis of nuclear extracts and whole-cell lysates demonstrated the decreased amounts of NF-kappaB p65 in nuclei but equal amounts of inhibitor-kappaBalpha (I-kappaBalpha) in whole-cell lysates of ethyl gallate-treated HUVECs. Incubation of the nuclear extracts from cytokine-activated HUVECs with ethyl gallate did not affect the NF-kappaB shifted bands induced by cytokines in gel shift assays. Taken together, these data demonstrate that ethyl gallate can inhibit cytokine-induced nuclear translocation of NF-kappaB p65 by way of a mechanism independent of I-kappaBalpha degradation and thereby suppress expression of VCAM-1, ICAM-1, and E-selectin, which was associated with reduced adhesion of leukocytes. These results in vitro demonstrate that gallates can exhibit anti-inflammatory properties by blocking activation of NF-kappaB and suggest that these natural compounds, abundant in red wine, may play important roles in the prevention of atherosclerosis and inflammatory responses in vivo.