In total, 40 Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolates from cystic fibrosis (CF) patients were included in this study. Twenty of these were collected in 1994 and 1997, from six CF patients, and the rest were collected from different CF patients in 2000 and 2001. The relative expression of mRNA for the efflux pump protein MexY was determined by real-time PCR and correlated with susceptibilities to amikacin and tobramycin. The chromosomal genes mexZ, rplY, galU, PA5471 and nuoG, which were found to have a role in the gradual increase in MICs of aminoglycoside antibiotics in laboratory mutants of P. aeruginosa, were analysed. MexY mRNA overproduction was found in 17/20 isolates collected in 1994 and 1997, and was correlated with decreased susceptibility to aminoglycosides. Alteration of the MexXY-OprM efflux system has been the main mechanism of resistance to aminoglycoside antibiotics in CF P. aeruginosa isolates over the 3-year period. In several isolates, expression of the PA5471 gene product might have some effect on elevated MICs of aminoglycosides. Inactivation of rplY, galU and/or nuoG may explain the gradual increase in MICs of aminoglycosides in laboratory mutants but probably not in the CF environment, as rplY and galU were unaltered in all isolates, and nuoG was not expressed in only one isolate. No 16S rRNA A-site mutations were found in any of the four copies of the gene in 13 investigated isolates.