Agents that are capable of inducing selective apoptosis of cancer cells are receiving considerable attention in developing novel cancer-preventive approaches. In the present study, employing normal human prostate epithelial cells (NHPE), virally transformed normal human prostate epithelial cells (PZ-HPV-7), and human prostate adenocarcinoma (CA-HPV-10) cells, we evaluated the growth-inhibitory effects of apigenin, a flavonoid abundantly present in fruits and vegetables. Apigenin treatment to NHPE and PZ-HPV-7 resulted in almost similar growth inhibitory responses of low magnitude. In sharp contrast, apigenin treatment resulted in a significant decrease in cell viability of CA-HPV-10 cells. Similar selective growth inhibitory effects were also observed for human epidermoid carcinoma A431 cells compared to normal human epidermal keratinocytes. Apigenin treatment resulted in significant apoptosis of CA-HPV-10 cells as evident from (i) DNA ladder assay, (ii) fluorescence microscopy, and (iii) TUNEL assay, whereas the NHPE and PZ-HPV-7 cells did not undergo apoptosis but showed exclusive necrotic staining only at a high dose of 40 microM. Apigenin (1-10 microM) also resulted in a dose-dependent G2-M phase cell cycle arrest of CA-HPV-10 cells but not of PZ-HPV-7 cells. The growth-inhibitory and apoptotic potential of apigenin was also observed in a variety of prostate carcinoma cells representing different stage and androgen responsiveness. Apigenin may be developed as a promising chemopreventive and/or chemotherapeutic agent against prostate cancer.