Drug resistance, a major obstacle to cancer chemotherapy, can be mediated by MDR-1/P-glycoprotein. Deletion of the first 68 residues of MDR-1 in an adriamycin-selected cell line after a 4;7 translocation, t(4q;7q), resulted in a hybrid mRNA containing sequences from both MDR-1 and a novel chromosome 4 gene. Further selection resulted in amplification of a hybrid gene. Expression of the hybrid mRNA was controlled by the chromosome 4 gene, providing a model for overexpression of MDR-1. Additional hybrid mRNAs in other drug-selected cell lines and in patients with refractory leukemia, with MDR-1 juxtaposed 3' to an active gene, establishes random chromosomal rearrangements with overexpression of hybrid MDR-1 mRNAs as a mechanism of acquired drug resistance.