1. We have used mice with homozygously disrupted mdr1a and mdr1b genes (mdr1a/1b (-/-) mice) to study the role of the mdr1-type P-glycoprotein (P-gp) in the elimination of cationic amphiphilic compounds from the body. These mice lack drug-transporting P-gps, but show no physiological abnormalities under laboratory conditions and have normal bile flow. 2. 3H-labelled cationic drugs were administered intravenously (i.v.) to mice as a single bolus dose and the disposition of the studied cationic drugs was investigated by focusing on drug secretion into bile, intestinal lumen and urine. 3. Hepatobiliary secretion of the investigated cationic drugs was profoundly reduced in mice devoid of the mdr1-type P-gps. In fact, the cumulative biliary output, measured during 1 h, of the small type 1 compounds tri-butylmethyl ammonium (TBuMA) and azidoprocainamide methoiodide (APM), as well as of the more bulky type 2 cationic drug vecuronium, was reduced by at least 70% in the mdrla/lb (-/-) mice compared to wild-type. 4. The intestinal secretion of TBuMA, APM and vecuronium was also profoundly reduced in mdrla/lb (-/-) mice compared to wild-type mice. The absence of the mdrl-type P-gp resulted in virtual elimination of intestinal secretion of TBuMA and APM (>90% reduced as compared to wild-type (P=0.0001 and 0.0022, respectively)). The intestinal secretion of the type 2 cation drug vecuronium was reduced by 58% (P=0.0004) compared to the wild-type mice. 5. Increased renal clearances of both the type 1 compounds TBuMA and APM and also of the type 2 cationic compound vecuronium in the mdrla/lb (-/-) mice were observed. Furthermore, the balance between hepatic, intestinal and renal clearances of small type 1 organic cations clearly shifted towards a predominant role for renal clearance. Increased renal clearance may be explained by (over)expression of additional mechanisms for renal organic cation secretion, alternatively they may also point to an as yet undefined role of P-glycoprotein in kidney physiology and renal secretory function. 6. We conclude that the elimination from the body of a broad spectrum of cationic amphiphilic drugs via liver and intestine, is largely dictated by the activity of mdrl-type P-glycoproteins.