Tumor cells may become resistant to conventional anticancer drugs through the occurrence of transmembrane transporter proteins such as P-glycoprotein (ABCB1), breast cancer resistance protein (ABCG2), or members of the multidrug resistance-associated protein family (MRP1-MRP5; ABCC1-ABCC5). In this report, we studied whether tumor cells that are cytostatic drug resistant because of overexpression of one of the above mentioned proteins are sensitive to a new anticancer agent, interleukin-4 toxin (IL-4 toxin). IL-4 toxin is a fusion protein composed of circularly permuted IL-4 and a truncated form of Pseudomonas exotoxin (PE) [IL-4(38-37)-PE38KDEL]. Ninety-six-h cytotoxicity assays and 10-day clonogenic assays showed that drug-selected multidrug resistant (MDR) tumor cells that overexpress P-glycoprotein or breast cancer resistance proteins are still sensitive to IL-4 toxin. Also, tumor cells transfected with cDNA for MRP2-5 showed no resistance, or marginal resistance, only to the toxin as compared with the parent cells. In contrast, MRP1-overexpressing cells, both drug selected and MRP1 transfected, are clearly resistant to IL-4 toxin with resistance factors of 4.3 to 8.4. MRP1-overexpressing cells were not resistant to PE itself. IL-4 toxin resistance in MRP1-overexpressing cells could be reversed by the MRP1 inhibitors probenecid or MK571 and were not affected by glutathione depletion by DL-buthionine-S,R-sulfoximine. In a transport assay using plasma membrane vesicles prepared from MRP1-overexpressing cells, IL-4 toxin and IL-4, but not PE, inhibited the translocation of the known MRP1 substrate 17beta-estradiol 17-(beta-D-glucuronide) (E(2)17betaG). These data suggest that MRP1-overexpressing cells are resistant to IL-4 toxin because of extrusion of this agent by MRP1. Still, the results of this study demonstrate that IL-4 toxin effectively kills most MDR tumor cells and, therefore, represents a promising anticancer drug.