Parkinson's disease is characterized by a progressive and selective loss of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra. Recent investigations have shown that conjugates such as the 5-S-cysteinyl-dopamine, possess strong neurotoxicity and may contribute to the underlying progression of the disease pathology. Although the neuroprotective actions of flavonoids are well reported, that of hydroxycinnamates and other phenolic acids is less established. We show that the hydroxycinnamates caffeic acid and p-coumaric acid, the hydroxyphenethyl alcohol, tyrosol, and a Champagne wine extract rich in these components protect neurons against injury induced by 5-S-cysteinyl-dopamine in vitro. The protection induced by these polyphenols was equal to or greater than that observed for the flavonoids, (+)-catechin, (-)-epicatechin and quercetin. For example, p-coumaric acid evoked significantly more protection at 1muM (64.0+/-3.1%) than both (-)-epicatechin (46.0+/-4.1%, p<0.05) and (+)-catechin (13.1+/-3.0%, p<0.001) at the same concentration. These data indicate that hydroxycinnamates, phenolic acids and phenolic alcohol are also capable of inducing neuroprotective effects to a similar extent to that seen with flavonoids.