The present study examined how the multidrug resistance protein (MRP1), which is an ATP-dependent anionic conjugate transporter, also mediates the transport of reduced glutathione (GSH) and the co-transport of the cationic drug, daunorubicin, with GSH in living GLC4/Adr cells. To obtain information on the affinity of GSH for the multidrug resistance protein in GLC4/Adr cells, we investigated the GSH concentration dependence of the ATP-dependent GSH efflux. The intracellular GSH concentration was modulated by preincubation of the cells with 25 microM buthionine sulfoximine, an inhibitor of GSH synthetase, for 0-24 h. The transport of GSH was related to the intracellular GSH concentration up to approximately 5 mM and then plateaued. Fitting of the obtained data according to the Michaelis-Menten equation revealed a Km of 3.4+/-1.4 mM and a Vmax of 1.5+/-0.2x10(-18) mol/cell/s. The ATP-dependent transport of GSH was inhibited by 3-([[3-(2-[7-chloro-2-quinolinyl]ethenyl)phenyl]-[(3-dimethylamino-3-oxopropyl)-thio]-methyl]thio)propanoic acid (MK571), with 50% inhibition being obtained with 1.4 microM MK571. We investigated the GSH concentration dependence of the MRP1-mediated ATP-dependent transport of daunorubicin under conditions where the transport of daunorubicin became saturated. The daunorubicin transport was related to the intracellular GSH concentration up to approximately 5 mM and then plateaued. We were therefore in the situation where GSH acted as an activator: its presence was necessary for the binding and transport of daunorubicin by MRP1. However, GSH was also transported by the multidrug resistance protein. The concentration of GSH that gave half the maximal rate of daunorubicin efflux was 2.1+/-0.8 mM, very similar to the Km value obtained for GSH. In conclusion, the rate of daunorubicin efflux, under conditions where the transport of daunorubicin became saturated, and the rate of GSH efflux determined at any intracellular concentration of GSH were very similar, yielding a 1:1 stoichiometry with respect to GSH and daunorubicin transport. These results support a model in which daunorubicin is co-transported with GSH.