Expression of the drug transport proteins, including P-glycoprotein (Pgp), in the brain vascular endothelium represents a challenge for the effective delivery of drugs for the treatment of several central nervous system (CNS) disorders including depression, schizophrenia and epilepsy. It has been hypothesized that Pgp plays a major role in drug efflux at the blood-brain barrier, and may be an underlying factor in the variable responses of patients to CNS drugs. However, the role of Pgp in the transport of many CNS drugs has not been directly demonstrated. To explore the role of Pgp in drug transport across an endothelial cell barrier derived from the central nervous system, the expression and activity of Pgp in bovine retinal endothelial cells (BRECs) and the effects of representative CNS drugs on Pgp activity were examined. Significant Pgp expression in BRECs was demonstrated by western analyses, and expression was increased by treatment of the cells with hydrocortisone. Intracellular accumulation of the well-characterized Pgp-substrate Taxol was markedly increased by the non-selective transporter inhibitor verapamil and the Pgp-selective antagonist PGP-4008, demonstrating that Pgp is active in these endothelial cells. In contrast, neither verapamil nor PGP-4008 affected the intracellular accumulation of [3H]paroxetine, [14C]phenytoin, [3H]clozapine or [14C]carbamazapine, indicating that these drugs are not substrates for Pgp. Paroxetine, clozapine and phenytoin were shown to be Pgp inhibitors, while carbamazapine did not inhibit Pgp at any concentration tested. These results indicate that Pgp is not likely to modulate patient responses to these drugs.