The ABC superfamily of transporters includes the mammalian P-glycoprotein family (Class I and Class II P-gps), the multidrug resistance-associated protein (MRP), the Pgh-1 product of Plasmodium falciparum gene pfmdr1, all of which are associated with cellular pleiotropic drug resistance phenomena. STE6, the yeast transporter for the farnesylated peptide pheromone a, is also a member of this family. Structural similarities in this family translate into functional homology as expression of mouse Mdr3S (P-gp), P. falciparum Pgh-1, and human MRP partially restore mating in a sterile yeast mutant lacking a functional STE6 gene. The demonstration that Class II P-gps function as phosphatidylcholine (PC) translocators raise the possibility that other ABC transporters may also interact with physiological lipids. We report the identification of the synthetic lipid and PC analog ET-18-OCH3 (edelfosine) as a substrate for not only Class II P-gp but also for Class I P-gps and surprisingly for the other ABC transporters MRP, Pgh-1, and STE6. Expression of these proteins in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae JPY201 was found to confer cellular resistance to cytotoxic concentrations of this lipid by a factor of 4-20-fold in a growth inhibition assay. The noted activity of ABC transporters toward this synthetic lipid was specific as a mutant variant of Mdr3 (Mdr3F) with reduced activity could not convey cellular resistance to ET-18-OCH3. ET-18-OCH3 was also found capable of blocking a-peptide pheromone transport and STE6 complementation by these ABC proteins. The inhibitory effect of ET-18-OCH3 on cell growth and a-factor transport could be abrogated by incubation with the lipid acceptor protein BSA or by enzymatic cleavage by microsomal alkylglycerol mono-oxygenase (MAMO). MAMO and BSA reversal of the ether lipid effect was only seen in the presence of a functional transporter. These results suggest that the group of cytotoxic synthetic PC analogs studied reveal possible structural and functional aspects common to the ABC transporters tested. Furthermore, the studies with BSA and MAMO suggest that the mechanism of transport of ET-18-OCH3 by these ABC transporters may be related to the flippase mechanism of PC transport by Mdr2.