The FDA approved HIV-1 protease inhibitors, ritonavir, saquinavir, and indinavir, are very effective in inhibiting HIV-1 replication, but their long-term efficacy is unknown. Since in vivo efficacy depends on access of these drugs to intracellular sites where HIV-1 replicates, we determined whether these protease inhibitors are recognized by the MDR1 multidrug transporter (P-glycoprotein, or P-gp), thereby reducing their intracellular accumulation. In vitro studies in isolated membrane preparations from insect cells infected with MDR1-expressing recombinant baculovirus showed that these inhibitors significantly stimulated P-gp-specific ATPase activity and that this stimulation was inhibited by SDZ PSC 833, a potent inhibitor of P-gp. Furthermore, photoaffinity labeling of P-gp with the substrate analogue [125I]iodoarylazidoprazosin (IAAP) was inhibited by all three inhibitors. Cell-based approaches to evaluate the ability of these protease inhibitors to compete for transport of known P-gp substrates showed that all three HIV-1 protease inhibitors were capable of inhibiting the transport of some of the known P-gp substrates but their effects were generally weaker than other documented P-gp modulators such as verapamil or cyclosporin A. Inhibition of HIV-1 replication by all three protease inhibitors was reduced but could be restored by MDR1 inhibitors in cells expressing MDR1. These results indicate that the HIV-1 protease inhibitors are substrates of the human multidrug transporter, suggesting that cells in patients that express the MDR1 transporter will be relatively resistant to the anti-viral effects of the HIV-1 protease inhibitors, and that absorption, excretion, and distribution of these inhibitors in the body may be affected by the multidrug transporter.