Multidrug resistance (MDR) to anti-cancer drugs has been associated with the overexpression of P-glycoprotein (P-gp) and the multidrug resistance-associated protein (MRP), both being members of the ATP-binding cassette (ABC) superfamily of transporters. We investigated whether in addition to P-gp and MRP, another ABC transporter, the transporter associated with antigen processing (TAP), is associated with MDR. TAP plays a major role in MHC class I-restricted antigen presentation by mediating peptide translocation over the endoplasmic reticulum membrane. TAP1 and P-gp share a significant degree of homology among their transmembrane domains, which are thought to be the primary determinants of substrate specificity, and both can apparently mediate the translocation of peptides. Using immunocytochemistry and Western blot, TAP was overexpressed in parallel with MHC class I in several MDR human cancer cell lines. TAP was overexpressed more frequently in MRP-positive MDR cell lines (three out of three) than in P-gp positive MDR cells (two out of five). Reversal of resistance resulted in a decrease in TAP levels. Transfection of the TAP genes into TAP-deficient lymphoblastoid T2 cells conferred mild resistance to etoposide, vincristine and doxorubicin (2- to 2.5-fold). Furthermore, etoposide and vincristine inhibited TAP-dependent peptide translocation to the endoplasmic reticulum. Collectively, our results suggest that TAP may modestly contribute to the MDR phenotype, in particular in MRP- overexpressing MDR cells. Further insight into the role of TAP in MDR will require the study of other transfectants, as well as the investigation of TAP expression in P-gp and MRP-negative MDR cancer cell lines.