Resistance of Plasmodium falciparum to many therapeutic agents is an increasing problem in most endemic areas. The role of the mdr-like gene products of P. falciparum in resistance to quinoline-containing compounds is not clear. The purpose of this study was to further examine the role of pfmdr1 in drug resistance in fresh clinical isolates originating from Africa. Drug susceptibility testing (chloroquine, mefloquine, halofantrine and quinine) and a molecular analysis of pfmdr1 was completed for 51 fresh clinical isolates. A statistical association between the chloroquine sensitivity phenotype and an intragenic allele of pfmdr1 was noted at a position, amino acid 86, which was previously associated with chloroquine resistance. There was little variation in the other intragenic alleles previously associated with chloroquine resistance. No correlation between pfmdr1 intragenic allelic variation and susceptibility to mefloquine, halofantrine or quinine was found. There was no association between gene copy number of pfmdr1 and any drug resistant phenotype in an analysis of selected isolates. This, along with other data, suggests that mefloquine resistance may have arisen by two different mechanisms in African and Southeast Asian isolates. Much more variability in the polyasparaginated region of the pfmdr1 gene was noted in this study than previously reported. In addition, fingerprint analysis using multiplex PCR revealed considerable genetic variability among these isolates.