A number of studies have reported that increased P-glycoprotein expression in drug-resistant tumour cells may be associated with decreased expression of a family of surface glycoproteins. However, despite its potential biological and clinical relevance, this phenomenon has not been extensively studied. In this study the phenotypic alterations that are associated with the acquisition of the multidrug-resistant phenotype in tumour cells, together with drug transporter overexpression, were investigated in human melanoma cells. The expression of cell adhesion molecules was analysed in a panel of multidrug-resistant melanoma cell lines (M14Dx) showing different degrees of resistance to doxorubicin and different levels of the expression of the drug transporter P-glycoprotein. In particular, expression of intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), CD44, very late activation antigen (VLA)-5 and VLA-2 was determined by flow cytometry in the different resistant cell lines. A progressive downregulation of all the adhesion molecules examined was revealed in M14Dx cells, in parallel with an increasing level of expression of the drug transporter P-glycoprotein. The results obtained raise the question of the role of P-glycoprotein in the invasive and metastatic behaviour of tumour cells.