Hypericin, a photodynamic plant quinone, readily inactivated murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV), Sindbis virus, and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), especially on exposure to fluorescent light. Sindbis virus was significantly more sensitive than MCMV. The inactivated MCMV, when used to infect cells, was incapable of synthesizing early or late viral antigens. In addition to this direct virucidal effect, when hypericin was added to cells infected with viable MCMV, inhibition was also observed, particularly when the compound was added in the first two hours of infection. Again the antiviral effect was augmented by visible light. At effective antiviral concentrations, there were no discernible adverse effects on cultured cells. Thus hypericin appears to have two modes of antiviral activity: one directed at the virions, possibly on membrane components (although other virion targets cannot be ruled out), and the other directed at virus-infected cells. Both activities are substantially enhanced by light. Other recent studies on the antiviral activities of hypericin have not considered the role of light, and it is conceivable that apparent discrepancies between their results may have reflected different conditions of light exposure.