Because drug transporters such as P-glycoprotein, the product of the multidrug resistance (MDR1 ) gene, contribute to the function of the blood-brain barrier, we hypothesized that differences in their expression could affect the uptake of neurotoxic xenobiotics, thereby modulating interindividual susceptibility for neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease. In a pilot case-control study comprising 95 Parkinson's disease patients (25 early-onset patients with onset age < or = 45 years) and 106 controls we analysed the three common polymorphisms, 3435C >T in exon 26, 2677G > T,A in exon 21, and -129T > C in exon 1b. There were no statistically significant associations between any of these polymorphisms and Parkinson's disease. However, a distribution pattern consistent with our hypothesis was observed in that the frequency of the 3435T/T genotype, which had previously been associated with decreased P-glycoprotein expression and function, was highest in the early-onset Parkinson's disease group (36.0%), second-highest in the late-onset Parkinson's disease group (22.9%), and lowest in the control group (18.9%). Furthermore, we confirmed that the MDR1 exon 21 and exon 26 polymorphisms are in significant linkage disequilibrium since the [2677G, 3435C] and [2677T, 3435T] haplotypes were far more frequently observed than expected. In conclusion, MDR1 and other drug transporters represent plausible candidates as Parkinson's disease risk genes. Larger studies are required to confirm this role in the etiology of Parkinson's disease.