Drug cerebral pharmacokinetics may be altered in the case of inflammatory diseases. This may be due to a modification of drug transport through the blood-brain barrier, in particular through drug interaction with the membrane efflux transporter, P-glycoprotein. The objective of this study was to investigate the influence of the inflammatory cytokine, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, on the functionality and expression of P-glycoprotein, and on mdr1a and mdr1b mRNA expression in immortalised rat brain endothelial cells, GPNT. Cells were treated with TNF-alpha for 4 days. Levels of mdr1a and mdr1b mRNAs were quantitated using real-time RT-PCR analysis and expression of P-glycoprotein was analyzed by Western blot. The functionality of P-glycoprotein was studied by following the accumulation of [3H]vinblastine in the cells without and with a pre-treatment with a P-glycoprotein inhibitor, GF120918. TNF-alpha increased the levels of mdr1a and mdr1b mRNAs while no effect was observed on protein expression. TNF-alpha increased [3H]vinblastine accumulation indicating a time and concentration-dependent decrease of P-glycoprotein activity. This effect was eliminated when the cells were pre-treated with GF120918. Our observation of a decrease in P-glycoprotein activity could suggest that in the case of inflammatory diseases, brain delivery of P-glycoprotein-dependent drugs can be enhanced.