Previous studies have demonstrated that glycopeptide compounds carrying hydrophobic substituents can have favorable pharmacological (i.e. antibacterial and antiviral) properties. We here report on the in vitro anti-influenza virus activity of aglycoristocetin derivatives containing hydrophobic side chain-substituted cyclobutenedione. The lead compound 8e displayed an antivirally effective concentration of 0.4 microM, which was consistent amongst influenza A/H1N1, A/H3N2 and B viruses, and a selectivity index > or =50. Structural analogues derived from aglycovancomycin were found to be inactive. The hydrophobic side chain was shown to be an important determinant of activity. The narrow structure-activity relationship and broad activity against several human influenza viruses suggest a highly conserved interaction site, which is presumably related to the influenza virus entry process. Compound 8e proved to be inactive against several unrelated RNA and DNA viruses, except for varicella-zoster virus, against which a favorable activity was noted.