Not all felled wood is converted to timber or pulp, with the remaining material being a rich source of relatively unexplored and unexploited potentially novel bioactive compounds. Therefore the potential bioactive effects of two softwood knot (the part of the branch encased in the tree stem) extracts-namely, Pinus banksiana Lamb. (Jack pine) and Picea sitchensis (Bong.) Carr. (Sitka spruce)-were investigated by (1) determining their effects on the viability and antioxidant status of human Jurkat T cells, (2) investigating potential cytoprotective and genoprotective effects against oxidative stress in cultured cells, and (3) assessing their effects on concanavalin A (ConA)-induced interleukin-2 (IL-2) production. Initially, both Jack pine knot and Sitka spruce knot extracts were shown to possess strong antioxidant activity as determined by the ferric reducing antioxidant power assay. When added to Jurkat cells, Jack pine knot extract was more toxic compared with Sitka spruce knot extract, with concentrations that resulted in 50% cell death of 153.0 mu g/mL and 376.1 mu g/mL, respectively. Supplementation of Jurkat cells with wood knot extracts did not affect their glutathione content or catalase activity. Pretreatment of Jurkat cells with Sitka spruce or Jack pine knot extracts protected against H(2)O(2)-induced cell injury. However, none of the extracts protected against H(2)O(2)-induced DNA damage. Jack pine knots, at a concentration of 30 mu g/mL, significantly suppressed ConA-induced IL-2 production. Although total phenol content did not differ between the two extracts, gas chromatography analysis did show variation in the types of constituents present. Further research is warranted to elucidate the selective bioactive properties of these softwood knot extracts.