Multidrug-resistant human neuroblastoma cell lines obtained by selection with vincristine or actinomycin D from two independent clonal lines, SH-SY5Y and MC-IXC, have 3- to 30-fold more cell surface epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptors than the drug-sensitive parental cells as indicated by EGF binding assays and immunoprecipitation, affinity-labeling, and phosphorylation studies. Reversion to drug sensitivity in one line was accompanied by a return to the parental level of EGF receptor. SH-EP cells, a clone derived from the same neuroblastoma cell line as SH-SY5Y but which displays melanocyte rather than neuronal lineage markers, also express significantly more EGF receptor than SH-SY5Y cells. By nucleic acid hybridization analysis with a molecularly cloned probe, increased receptor level in multidrug-resistant cells was shown to be the result of higher levels of EGF receptor mRNA in drug-resistant than in drug-sensitive cells. The increased steady state amount of specific RNA did not result from amplification of receptor-encoding genes. A small difference was observed in the electrophoretic mobility under denaturing conditions of EGF receptor immunoprecipitated from drug-resistant and drug-sensitive cells. Quantitative and qualitative modulation of the EGF receptor might reflect alterations in the transformation and/or differentiation phenotype of the resistant cells or might result from unknown selective pressures associated with the development of multidrug resistance.