The mRNA induction of various transporters by rifampicin (Rif), dexamethasone (Dex) and omeprazole (Ome) was investigated in primary cultures of cryopreserved human and rat hepatocytes. Analysis was performed by quantitative real-time RT-PCR using primers and TaqMan probes. In primary cultures of human hepatocytes, mRNA levels of MDR and MRP1 were increased by about 1.5 fold and 1.3 fold, respectively, by exposure to Rif at 2 to 50 microM as compared with 0.1% DMSO-treated controls. MRP2 mRNA levels in the same human hepatocytes were significantly increased by 1.2 to 1.8 fold by exposure to Rif at 50 microM as compared with controls. In primary cultures of rat hepatocytes, Mdr1a and Mdr1b mRNA levels were not increased or only slightly increased at 24 hr by exposure to any of the inducers at 2, 10 or 50 microM. Mrp2 mRNA levels in the same rat hepatocytes were significantly increased by 7 to 45 fold by exposure to Dex at 2 microM as compared with controls. Based on the species differences observed in the present study, primary cultures of cryopreserved hepatocytes from both the human and rat should be useful in preclinical drug development for evaluating candidate drugs for transporter induction.