Human non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is considered to be a chemotherapy-refractory malignancy. The underlying mechanisms remain rather obscure. The multidrug resistance-associated protein (MRP), mediating a multidrug resistance (MDR) phenotype, has been reported to be overexpressed in several drug-selected lung cancer cell lines. A few previous studies have described intrinsic MRP expression in both NSCLC and normal lung tissues. However, the drug-transporting activity as well as the correlation with chemoresistance is unclear. Using 15 unselected cell lines, we show that MRP (mRNA and protein as detected by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction and immunoblot) is frequently expressed intrinsically, with markedly varying intensity, in NSCLC. Two cell lines expressed high MRP levels, one comparable to the drug-selected controls (GLC4/ADR, HL-60/AR) without, however, amplification of the MRP gene (Southern hybridization). Using 3H-daunomycin (3H-DM) and calcein as MRP substrates and probenecid (PRO), genistein (GEN), benzbromarone (BB), N-ethylmaleimide (NEM) and verapamil (VP) as MRP modulators, drug accumulation studies revealed a transporting activity of MRP that correlated significantly with the gene expression data. Moreover, a significant correlation between MRP expression and chemoresistance against daunomycin (DM), doxorubicin (DOX), etoposide (VP-16) and vinblastine (VBL), but not cisplatin (CDDP) and bleomycin (Bleo) (MTT-based survival assay), was detected. Correlations mainly rested on the pronounced chemoresistance of 2 highly MRP-expressing cell lines and did not reach significance when these cell lines were excluded.