A partially purified plant inhibitor (Meliacin) isolated from Melia azedarach L induced in cells a refractory state to virus infection. Meliacin was active in a large variety of continuous and/or primary cell cultures. A state of maximum virus resistance was achieved after 2 h of incubation and was maintained for at least 15 h; later on it declined but it was fully regained after a second pulse of Meliacin. Interferon was not detected in the supernatant of cells treated with Meliacin and a measurable increase in ds-RNA dependent protein kinase activity was not observed in extracts of Meliacin-treated cells. The antiviral state was not transferred by either extracellular fluid or direct cell-to-cell contact. An active cell metabolism was required for Meliacin action, which was partially reversed in the presence of actinomycin D. It appears that Meliacin is not an interferon-like substance, which induces an antiviral state based on a still unexplained mechanism.