Trichosanthin, an abortifacient, immunosuppressive and anti-tumor protein purified from the traditional Chinese herb medicine Tian Hua Fen, is a potent inhibitor against HIV-1 replication. Under normal enzymatic digestion conditions, trichosanthin cleaves the supercoiled double-stranded DNA to produce nicked circular and linear DNA. Trichosanthin has no effect on linear double-stranded DNA. Neither does it convert relaxed circular duplex DNA into a supercoiled form in the presence of ATP. Thus trichosanthin is not a DNA gyrase. However, trichosanthin can cleave the relaxed circular DNA into a linear form, indicating that both the circular as well as the supercoiled forms are essential for trichosanthin recognition. In addition, trichosanthin contains one calcium metal ion per protein molecule, which presumably is related to its endonucleolytic activity.