Intrinsic and acquired antineoplastic drug resistance remain a major problem for advanced prostate cancer treatment. In order to characterize mechanisms of anti-neoplastic drug resistance in human prostate cancer cell lines, resistant sublines of four of the commonly studied prostate cancer cell lines (DU 145, PC-3, PPC-1, and TSU-PR1) were selected following exposure to increasing concentrations of doxorubicin (from 10-1000 nM). Sensitivity patterns of the parent and doxorubicin-resistant sublines to various anti-neoplastic drugs, including adriamycin, amsacrine, etoposide, camptothecin, vinblastine, vincristine, fluorodeoxyuridine, and melphalan, were determined using a sulforhodamine B growth inhibition assay. The expression of three well-described antineoplastic drug resistance proteins, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), multidrug resistance-associated protein (MRP), and lung resistance protein (LRP), was assessed using reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assays specific for each of the mRNA species, and using immunocytochemical staining procedures specific for each of the polypeptides. All four of the doxorubicin-selected prostate cancer cell lines exhibited a multidrug resistance phenotype; administration of verapamil restored doxorubicin sensitivity for each of the drug resistant sublines. Although significant MDR1 expression was not detected in any of the parent cell lines before drug exposure by RT-PCR analysis or by immunocytochemistry, both MDR1 mRNA and P-gp protein were expressed by the TSU-PR1 Adr 1000 subline. In contrast, MRP mRNA and protein were present in each of the prostate cancer cell lines before doxorubicin-selection, and an increase in MRP expression appeared to accompany the acquisition of drug resistance in DU 145, PC-3, and PPC-1 doxorubicin-resistant sublines. LRP was variably expressed by each of the parent and resistant cell lines. These data suggest that drug resistance in human prostate cancer may be multifactorial, with MRP and LRP frequently expressed in prostate cancer cells before antineoplastic drug treatment and P-gp expression occasionally acquired after drug exposure.