Human neutrophils contain a family of microbicidal peptides known as defensins. One of these defensins, human neutrophil peptide (HNP)-1, was purified, and its ability to directly inactivate several viruses was extensively tested. Herpes simplex virus (HSV) types 1 and 2, cytomegalovirus, vesicular stomatitis virus, and influenza virus A/WSN were inactivated by incubation with HNP-1. Two nonenveloped viruses, echovirus type 11 and reovirus type 3, were resistant to inactivation. Purified homologous peptides HNP-2 and HNP-3 were found to have HSV-1-neutralizing activities approximately equal to that of HNP-1. Inactivation of HSV-1 by HNP-1 depended on the time, temperature, and pH of incubation. Antiviral activity was abrogated by low temperature or prior reduction and alkylation of the defensins. Addition of serum or serum albumin to the incubation mixtures inhibited neutralization of HSV-1 by HNP-1. We used density gradient sedimentation techniques to demonstrate that HNP-1 bound to HSV-1 in a temperature-dependent manner. We speculate that binding of defensin peptides to certain viruses may impair their ability to infect cells.