Among the different factors which can contribute to CNS alterations associated with HIV infection, Tat protein is considered to play a critical role. Evidence indicates that Tat can contribute to brain vascular pathology through induction of endothelial cell activation. In the present study, we hypothesized that Tat can affect expression of P-glycoprotein (P-gp) in brain microvascular endothelial cells (BMEC). P-gp is an ATP-dependent cellular efflux transporter which is involved in the removal of specific non-polar molecules, including drugs used for highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Treatment of BMEC with Tat(1-72) resulted in P-gp overexpression both at mRNA and protein levels. These alterations were confirmed in vivo in brain vessels of mice injected with Tat(1-72) into the hippocampus. Furthermore, pre-treatment of BMEC with SN50, a specific NF-kappaB inhibitor, protected against Tat(1-72)-stimulated expression of mdr1a gene, i.e. the gene which encodes for P-gp in rodents. Tat(1-72)-mediated changes in P-gp expression were correlated with increased rhodamine 123 efflux, indicating the up-regulation of transporter functions of P-gp. These results suggest that Tat-induced overexpression of P-gp in brain microvessels may have significant implications for the development of resistance to HAART and may be a contributing factor for low efficacy of HAART in the CNS.