We selected two drug resistant variants of the MCF7 human breast cancer cell line by chronic in vitro exposure to doxorubicin (MCF7/D40 cell line) and mitoxantrone (MCF7/Mitox cell line), respectively. The cell lines are similar in growth characteristics including doubling time, DNA synthetic phase and cell size. Resistance to mitoxantrone conferred only partial resistance to doxorubicin; whereas resistance selected for doxorubicin appeared to confer complete resistance to mitoxantrone. Both agents selected for cross resistance to the Vinca alkaloids. MCF7/D40 cells display a classic-multi-drug resistance phenotype with expression of P-glycoprotein, decreased drug accumulation relative to the parental line and reversal of drug accumulation and drug resistance by verapamil. MCF7/Mitox cells likewise display resistance to multiple drugs, but in contrast to MCF7/D40 cells do not express P-glycoprotein by immunoblot or RNA blot analysis. Net drug accumulation in MCF7/Mitox cells was decreased relative to the parental cells but there was no selective modulation of drug accumulation or in vitro drug resistance by the addition of verapamil. Efflux of mitoxantrone was enhanced in both the MCF7/D40 and MCF7/Mitox cell lines relative to the MCF7/S cell line. We conclude that the two drug resistant cell lines have different mechanisms of decreased drug accumulation.