The E2 protein is required for the replication of human papillomaviruses (HPVs), which are responsible for anogenital warts and cervical carcinomas. Using an NMR-based screen, we tested compounds for binding to the DNA-binding domain of the HPV-E2 protein. Three classes of compounds were identified which bound to two distinct sites on the protein. Biphenyl and biphenyl ether compounds containing a carboxylic acid bind to a site near the DNA recognition helix and inhibit the binding of E2 to DNA. Benzophenone-containing compounds which lack a carboxylic acid group bind to the beta-barrel formed by the dimer interface and exhibit negligible effects on the binding of E2 to DNA. Structure-activity relationships from the biphenyl and biphenyl ether compounds were combined to produce a compound [5-(3'-(3",5"-dichlorophenoxy)-phenyl)-2,4-pentadienoic acid] with an IC50 value of approximately 10 microM. This compound represents a useful lead for the development of antiviral agents that interfere with HPV replication and further illustrates the usefulness of the SAR by NMR method in the drug discovery process.