Expression of the multidrug resistance (MDR) phenotype is responsible for chemotherapy failure in numerous cancers. This phenotype is generally due to the expression of the mdr1 gene-encoded P-gp. Modulation of P-gp activity by chemotherapy has limited possibilities because of toxicity and poor specificity. In contrast, specific transcription blockage of the mdr1 gene can be obtained by oligonucleotides forming a triple helix structure at the DNA level. We used here immunofluorescence and both flow cytometry and image analysis to evaluate surface and total P-gp content in K562 MDR cells. The mdr1 mRNA content was measured by RT-PCR. We confirm the capacity of a 27-mer oligodeoxynucleotide, targeted to an mdr1 DNA fragment, to cause a 10-fold decrease in mdr1 mRNA level. However, this specific genetic inhibition was functionally limited because cellular growth was not modified in a cytotoxic environment. We found that total P-gp content was reduced in resistant cells treated with the mdr1-targeted oligonucleotide, while it remained in high levels on the cell surface, suggesting the existence of a large cytoplasmic pool of P-gp (approximately 50% of the total cellular P-gp). Moreover, when cycloheximide was used for 72 h to suppress protein synthesis, surface P-gp expression showed no decrease, whereas total P-gp was considerably lowered. A rapid 35% decrease in surface P-gp level was reached when resistant cells were treated for 24 h with brefeldin A, an inhibitor of intracellular protein trafficking. Simultaneously, the total P-gp level remained stable, thus indicating a probable accumulation of cytoplasmic P-gp, in agreement with the interruption of protein migration. We propose that the cytoplasmic P-gp pool could be a storage pool consumed for maintaining a steady-state level of surface P-gp. Cytometry could be a useful tool to study such a mechanism of P-gp trafficking and cellular distribution, which could explain the difficulties encountered in achieving stable and rapid effects of MDR reversal with oligonucleotides.