The development of cross-resistance to many natural product anticancer drugs, termed multidrug resistance (MDR), is one of the major reasons why cancer chemotherapy ultimately fails. This type of MDR is often associated with over-expression of the MDR1 gene product, P-glycoprotein (Pgp), a multifunctional drug transporter. The expression of MDR in breast tumors is related to their origination from a tissue that constitutively expresses Pgp as well as to the development of resistance during successive courses of chemotherapy. Therefore, understanding the mechanisms that regulate the transcriptional activation of MDR1 may afford a means of reducing or eliminating MDR. We have found that MDR1 expression can be modulated by type I cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA), opening up the possibility of modulating MDR by selectively down-regulating the activity of PKA-dependent transcription factors which upregulate MDR1 expression. High levels of type I PKA occurs in primary breast carcinomas and patients exhibiting this phenotype show decreased survival. The selective type I cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA) inhibitors, 8-Cl-cAMP and Rp8-Cl-cAMP[S] may be particularly useful for downregulating PKA-dependent MDR-associated transcription factors, and we have found these compounds to downregulate transient expression of a reporter gene under the control of several MDR1 promoter elements. Thus, investigations of this nature should not only lead to a greater understanding of the mechanisms governing the expression of MDR, but also provide a focus for pharmacologic intervention by a new class of inhibitors.