Flavonoids are polyphenolic compounds widely distributed in the plant kingdom. Compelling research indicates that flavonoids have important roles in cancer chemoprevention and chemotherapy possibly due to biological activities that include action through anti-inflammation, free radical scavenging, modulation of survival/proliferation pathways, and inhibition of the ubiquitin–proteasome pathway. Plant polyphenols including the green tea polyphenol (-)-epigallocatechin gallate or (-)-EGCG, and the flavonoids apigenin, luteolin, quercetin, and chrysin have been shown to inhibit proteasome activity and induce apoptosis in human leukemia cells. However, biotransformation reactions to the reactive hydroxyl groups on polyphenols could reduce their biological activities. Although methylated polyphenols have been suggested to be metabolically more stable than unmethylated polyphenols, the practical use of methylated polyphenols as cancer preventative agents warrants further investigation. In the current study, methylated and unmethylated flavonoids were studied for their proteasome-inhibitory and apoptosis-inducing abilities in human leukemia HL60 cells. Methylated flavonoids displayed sustained bioavailability and inhibited cellular proliferation by arresting cells in the G1 phase. However, they did not act as proteasome inhibitors in either an in vitro system or an in silico model and only weakly induced apoptosis. In contrast, unmethylated flavonoids exhibited inhibition of the proteasomal activity in intact HL60 cells, accumulating proteasome target proteins and inducing caspase activation and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase cleavage. We conclude that methylated flavonoids lack potent cytotoxicity against human leukemia cells and most likely have limited ability as chemopreventive agents. J. Cell. Biochem. 105: 514–523, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.