RLIP76 (RALBP1) is a multifunctional transporter involved in signaling and transmembrane movement of solute allocrites, which include glutathione conjugates and several natural product antineoplastic agents [Awasthi, S., et al. (2000) Biochemistry 39, 9327-9334; (2001) Biochemistry 40, 4159-4168]. Our previous studies suggested that the membrane-anchoring domain resides in the N-terminus of RLIP76, despite the lack of identifiable membrane-spanning domains. Amino acid sequence analysis indicated that this region of RLIP76 contains sequences that are similar to those of vector peptides. We, therefore, have studied the effect of a series of deletion mutant proteins on hydrophobicity and transport activity. RLIP76 or one of its derived deletion mutants was expressed in Escherichia coli, and bacteria were lysed and extracted in buffer without or with the nonionic detergent polidocanol. The ratio of RLIP76 in the detergent/aqueous extracts was found to be 2.5 for the wild-type protein, but decreased to 0.7 in the mutant in which amino acids 154-219 were deleted. Deletion of only one segment of this region (amino acids 171-185) alone resulted in a significant decrease in this ratio to 1.0. For the mutants with deletions within the region from amino acid 154 to 219, loss of hydrophobicity correlated with less incorporation of mutants into artificial liposomes, and decreased transport activity toward doxorubicin and dinitrophenyl-S-glutathione. In contrast, deletion of one of the two ATP-binding sites (at amino acids 65-80 or 415-448) or both sites did not affect hydrophobicity but reduced or abrogated transport activity. NSCLC (H358) stably transfected with del171-185 and del154-219 showed that loss of these regions results in a decrease in the extent of membrane association of RLIP76. Confocal laser immunohistochemistry colocalized amino acids 171-185 with her2/neu on the cell surface. Depletion of wild-type RLIP76 using si-RNA directed to this region in cells transfected with del171-185 resulted in the loss of cell surface expression. These finding demonstrate that amino acids 171-185 constitute a cell surface epitope which is necessary for optimal transport of anthracycline and glutathione conjugates by RLIP76, and that this peptide could be a novel target for antineoplastic therapy.