Resveratrol, a plant constituent enriched in the skin of grapes, is one of the most promising agents for the prevention of cancer. However, the mechanism of the anti-carcinogenic activity of resveratrol is not well understood. Here we offer a possible explanation of its anti-cancer effect. Resveratrol suppresses tumor promoter-induced cell transformation and markedly induces apoptosis, transactivation of p53 activity and expression of p53 protein in the same cell line and at the same dosage. Also, resveratrol-induced apoptosis occurs only in cells expressing wild-type p53 (p53(+/+)), but not in p53-deficient (p53(-/-)) cells, while there is no difference in apoptosis induction between normal lymphoblasts and sphingomyelinase-deficient cell lines. These results demonstrate for the first time that resveratrol induces apoptosis through activation of p53 activity, suggesting that its anti-tumor activity may occur through the induction of apoptosis.