Benzimidazoles are important compounds because of their antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiprotozoal and antihelmintic activities. Some benzimidazole derivatives also interfere with the reactions of DNA topoisomerases, enzymes functioning at almost all stages of the cell cycle. In this study, nine 1H-benzimidazole derivatives with substituents at positions 2 and 5 were synthesized and the structure of the compounds was elucidated by instrumental methods. The characterized compounds were screened to identify if they interfered with mammalian type I DNA topoisomerase activity via in vitro supercoil relaxation assays. Selected compounds were subjected to cytostatic assays using HeLa (cervix adenocarcinoma), MCF7 (breast adenocarcinoma) and A431 (skin epidermoid carcinoma) cells. Our results showed that 5-chloro-2-(2-hydroxyphenyl)-1H-benzimidazole exerted the most profound topoisomerase I inhibition and cytotoxicity. (C) 2008 Published by Elsevier Masson SAS.