P-Glycoprotein (Pgp), product of the mdr-1 gene, is a 130- to 180-kDa plasma membrane phosphoglycoprotein which mediates multidrug resistance in cell culture by increasing efflux of the natural product chemotherapeutic agents. High levels of expression of mdr-1/Pgp are found in both the normal adrenal and adrenocortical cancers. By RNA in situ hybridization the expression in adrenocortical cancer is shown to be widely distributed. The present study demonstrates that decreased drug accumulation mediated by mdr-1/Pgp can be overcome by clinically achievable concentrations of mitotane (o,p'-DDD). The increase in drug accumulation with the addition of mitotane is due at least in part to a decrease in drug efflux and results in an increase in cytotoxicity when agents of the natural product class are used. This effect is observed in cells with a broad range of mdr-1/Pgp expression, including levels comparable to those found in most adrenocortical cancers. Similar increases in drug accumulation can be demonstrated in an unselected adrenocortical cancer cell line that expresses mdr-1/Pgp. The finding that multidrug resistance mediated by mdr-1/Pgp can be reversed by mitotane provides a rational basis for exploring the use of mitotane in combination with natural product chemotherapeutic agents in adrenocortical cancer.