In tumour cells the pharmacological basis for multidrug resistance (MDR) often appears to be a reduced cellular cytostatic drug accumulation caused by the drug efflux protein, P-glycoprotein (Pgp MDR), or by other drug transporters (non-Pgp MDR). Here we report the reversal of the decreased daunorubicin (DNR) accumulation in five non-Pgp MDR cell lines (GLC4/ADR, SW-1573/2R120, HT1080/DR4, MCF7/Mitox and HL60/ADR) by genistein. Genistein inhibited the enhanced DNR efflux in the GLC4/ADR cells. In these cells the decreased VP-16 accumulation was also reversed by genistein. Three other (iso)flavonoids biochanin A, apigenin and quercetin also increased the DNR accumulation in the GLC4/ADR cells. In contrast to the effects on non-Pgp MDR cells, 200 microM genistein did not increase the reduced DNR accumulation in three Pgp MDR cell lines (SW-1573/2R160, MCF7/DOX40 and KB8-5) or in the parental cell lines. In conclusion the use of genistein provides a means to probe non-Pgp related drug accumulation defects.